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Health Care REIT, Inc.

Regional office joins national design scheme while establishing independent, modern showpiece

Exciting, playful, surprising, transformative, modern, whimsical... Rejuvinating.

Quickly outgrowing their existing space, the Development Services Group of Health Care REIT, Inc., a real estate investment trust, contracted GS&P to renovate the interiors of their 22,000-square-foot, two-story 1980s vintage building. With the potential for multiple visitors, investors and medical professionals visiting the office for business development and project opportunities, it was important that the space be a showpiece for Health Care REIT’s properties and a reflection of the creative culture of the business and employees.

 

 

Considering the client originally wanted a simple “paint and carpet finish renovation,” how did the project become a full-scale interior renovation?

Jack Weber: Our first communication with the client was through a basic RFP for a very small paint and carpet bid proposal. We were the successful bidder. After being notified, we walked through the space with the client and talked through their goals for the space. One of their primary goals was to make the space a showplace for their clients. While continuing our tour and conversations, we pointed out some of the major problems with the current build-out and educated them on some of the opportunities for the space. They quickly came to the conclusion that they needed to do a much larger renovation to achieve their goals and decided to go back to their president and CEO to ask for an increased budget.

How did you determine what type of environment would best suit their needs and create the showplace they desired?

Jack: The design had to be a reflection of who Health Care REIT is. Early on, we toured their headquarters in Toledo to gain a better understanding of their business, their clients and who they are as an organization. We met the president and CEO and talked to him about the company and his vision for this facility. We toured their facility and he described some of the renovations that had taken place and how the two offices were both similar and different in terms of business function, employees and goals. This gave us a much clearer picture of their culture and what needed to be achieved in the Nashville office.

What did you learn about their culture that helped you shape your design?

Jack: Their office space in Toledo was much more traditional and conservative in both layout and design; more along the lines of what you would expect from a bank with large offices at the perimeter and a few administrative work stations across the hall. There was an attempt at moving in a new direction with a few smaller spaces created for collaboration at corners, but they were rarely used because they could easily meet in their large offices. Since one of the goals in the new space was to encourage interaction and collaboration, we realized their office standards were simply too big.

Describe the office layout prior to renovation. How did you reconfigure the space to facilitate collaboration?

Jack: Existing conditions within their newly purchased building had offices around the perimeter of the building with internal spaces filled with small rooms that created a maze of closed-up spaces. To open up the space in the middle and reduce existing office sizes, we basically cut off about three feet from the front of each office and replaced it with a glass storefront. The full glass walls allowed natural light to be brought into the internal spaces. Reducing the office size to accommodate no more than one guest chair has forced staff to collaborate in the open spaces rather than behind closed doors.

Discuss the use of multiple schematics in your design and describe the initial goals for the space.

Jack: The first aspect of any design starts two-dimensionally with a simple plan of the space. The building is rectangular with the corners cut off, so it is at a 45-degree angle. The floor plan was very dated and felt like the 1980s. We downplayed the cut-off corner concept and rectangular shape of the building and updated the interior to make it more inspiring and more functional. The goals of the functional areas were to bring in more natural light, create areas for collaboration, design meeting spaces up front for clients, and brighten the work environment to connect it visually.

Since the space had to be completely redesigned, how did you choose your starting point?

Jack: We started by using the space’s strong diagonals while at the same time downplaying the 45-degree cut-off corners. We then looked at the two-story atrium that had too much natural light and no way to control the heat occurring in the space. In the middle of the summer the heat and glare was so uncomfortable employees could not work in the space and did not like to bring people into the area. The need to solve these problems led to finding a way to diffuse the light. From there, we decided to better physically and visually connect the two stories and create an element to tie in the diagonal shape of the space.

The space has a lot of elements and a very geometric look. Describe how the graphics and signage work with the overall look.

Tim Rucker: At one point, they wanted to have multiple sign systems, but we encouraged them to look at some different options, which is why there are only two different sign systems within the offices. One is a more modern, very clean oval shape that directly plays off the surfboard-shaped table on the second floor.

We wanted something a little softer with this system since there are some really strong lines in the building. The second system is more traditional and was inspired by the wood and darker pieces that were selected in their color palette.

The space is a visually exciting and playful atmosphere. Discuss some of the innovative techniques used to create such a fun environment.

Jack: We always look for visual clues for direction, so we started with their website, which is very clean, simple and modern, cluing us into the fact that they like modern spaces. We used some wood elements in the boardroom to provide a connection to their office in Toledo and a hint at who they are as a company, but the playfulness came in when we began weaving in the personality of the Nashville group. It is a much more collaborative space geared toward creating, designing, engineering and managing facilities rather than the financially-driven headquarters in Toledo.

Tim: Our graphics team had worked with Health Care REIT on another project, so we had a pretty good rapport with them. They used a lot of playful colors in their materials, which enabled us to work with a playful mindset.

Jack: The color really comes in through the monumental wall system, panels and ceiling; all of the panels are interchangeable. They are held in place by cables and clamps that can easily be changed, which makes the space more flexible. If they ever want a change or if a new company came in, they could change the panels in the grid structure and some of the ceiling elements in the atrium and have a whole new look.

Tim: The graphics function the same way. Some of the core graphics such as the restroom signs are permanently affixed, but the names and IDs on other signs pop right off.

The signs are very unique. What materials did you use?

Tim: The graphic design team works hand-in-hand with the interior designers. A lot of our inspiration came from what they selected from 3form™ designs. 3form™ is a very high-quality acrylic, usually translucent, material. You can light it and create all kinds of cool effects.

The “clouds” in the entry and the panel system, or feature wall, in the lobby are made with 3form™. The custom badges at the individual workstations and offices are made with an off-the-shelf system called dotdash™ because Health Care REIT’s logo is medallion-shaped. We used a dotdash™ holder to suspend the signs off the wall, and placed a translucent acrylic on the back that looks very upscale.

Let’s talk about the inspiration behind the “clouds” in the atrium area.

Tim: The clouds are actually furled pieces of 3form™ that were vacuum-pressed to get that shape, and it makes them look like they are actually fluttering. These are the pieces that gave us the inspiration for the signs.

Jack: They’re made of four-by-eight sheets of half-inch translucent acrylic suspended from the atrium. They actually help filter light and heat that come into the atrium so that people can use the area.

Have the makers of 3form™ seen the clouds?

Jack: Yes. They are very proud of the space, too. In fact, they pushed us to submit this project in their own 3form™ awards where people voted publicly on the best use of 3form™ spaces. Though we did not receive the top award, we received a special recognition award because they liked the space so much. 3form™ uses the pictures in a lot of their brochures and publications.

Describe some of the other collaborative and gathering areas incorporated into the design.

Jack: We wanted to create different spaces where people could meet, work, play or socialize and connect in different ways. The break or kitchen area, for example, is a space that can serve any major function.

We also turned an old loading dock into a seating area with another meeting space next to it. Through a series of bypass doors, they can either close off the space or open it up for parties with a connection to the executive board area.

What have been some of the comments by employees since they’ve been working in the space?

Jack: They love it. It is a fun space. Sometimes you just can not put a finger on why something makes you feel good. But the color, the openness and the way the light comes in work well together, and it is a nice feeling when you walk in.

Tim: It is a rejuvenating space—you feel better just by being there.

What part of this project makes you most proud?

Jack: The project started out as this little RFP for paint and carpet that we almost did not pursue. The decision to do the project and then show what could be done resulted in an award-winning project for us and for them, which always makes you feel good. And they are really proud of it. When I walk other clients through the space, Health Care REIT is very engaged and loves to talk about the project and how we worked together as a team.

Tim: Since we had a history with them, it was nice to impress them even more than before. They cut us loose a little bit to show what we could really do, and we had a blast working with them. It was really gratifying to have that much fun on a project.

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Project Info

  • Client: Health Care REIT, Inc. Regional Offices Program Development
  • Location: Brentwood, TN, USA
  • Market: Corporate + Urban Design
  • Services: Architecture, Interior Design, Workplace Strategy
  • Team:
    • Jack E. Weber, IIDA, LEED AP Principal-in-Charge
    • Eric Bearden, AIA Project Architect
    • William C. Mays Project Coordinator
    • Ramona Ramaker Batt, IIDA, LEED AP Interior Designer
    • Jennifer Murphy, IIDA, LEED AP Interior Designer
    • Afton Mooney, LEED AP Interior Designer
    • Tim Rucker Environmental Graphics Designer
    • Mike Summers Environmental Graphics Designer
  • Awards:

    Associated Builders and Contractors, 2009 Construction Excellence Award, Renovation Under $4 Million Category

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