Spurred by growth at its headquarters in Lansing, Michigan, Jackson National Life Insurance Company selected a 33,000-square-foot, two-story building adjacent to Michigan State University (MSU) to serve as a training ground for future associates. Jackson tasked Gresham Smith with creating an environment that would not only attract and retain students from MSU but also provide an ideal meeting spot for local organizations, helping Jackson better connect to the community through public outreach endeavors.
The end result transformed a former Barnes & Noble bookstore into a flexible, efficient and inspiring space named The Zone.
hip hang space
Creating The ZoneAfter working with Jackson to identify the company’s needs for the space, we conducted focus group studies with MSU students to help us better understand what mattered most to them in terms of image and functionality. This vital feedback shed light on the importance of elements such as access to information, social gathering spaces, bike storage, privacy and comfort. From there, we quickly began conceptualizing the layout and locations for primary work zones, training, collaborative and utility spaces, and break areas.
A Hip Place to Hang OutOffering a variety of seating areas, mobile booths and table spaces, along with a kitchen area that gives students a place to study or simply socialize, “the hang space” is located on the building’s main floor at street level, providing students with the hip, comfortable and inspirational common area they desired.
Designing with TransparencyTo breathe new life into the former Barnes & Noble space, which only featured windows on the side of the building’s main level and on its facade, exposure to daylight was maximized by using glass walls. Open ceilings help make the space feel brighter, more open and spacious.
Encouraging Conversation & CamaraderieServing as a large gathering space for impromptu collaboration, study sessions or larger groups, a striking bleacher-seat stairway has the capacity to hold up to 50 people. Located on both the main and lower levels of the building, we centered work zones around the large opening between the floors where the bleacher stair connects the two spaces.
From Utilitarian to ElectrifiedSeveral cafe areas were distributed throughout the two floors to allow staff to recharge and refuel or simply chat with fellow co-workers. Enclaves were distributed throughout to offer privacy for small group or private conversations. Glass-enclosed meeting spaces accommodate larger group meetings. As training is a large component of Jackson’s new associate onboarding, a large training room/pre-function space was designed to accommodate up to 40 people.
Gresham Smith’s design transforms an otherwise utilitarian space into an electrified environment that’s not only a win-win for Jackson but also for MSU and the city of Lansing.