Who said you can’t make a huge impact in a small space?
In downtown Akron, Ohio, “The Rubber Capitol of the World,” sits the former 1871 B.F. Goodrich complex and what is left of the once booming manufacturing facility. Within the remaining buildings is the headquarters of GPD Group, an interdisciplinary architecture and engineering firm that has called this historic complex home since 1988. Re-using and adapting 90,000 square feet in the complex over the years for all of our many disciplines brought us new design opportunities.
The latest opportunity was a small remodel of a 3,000-square foot space for our marketing department that supports our 12 offices nationwide. Established corporate design standards with a grey and purple color palette and the angled walls for visual direction are very impactful for our associates and clients to know that they are in a GPD environment. The design is especially successful when we are occupying partial floors within a corporate building. Being tasked by the President of the company to address the needs of today’s work place and propose a more open and creative environment while keeping in line with our design standards were key. As a designer on the GPD team, I had the opportunity to be a part of taking a dark, isolated space and transforming it to an open layout with multi-functional furniture and fresh finish choices for our associates.
“I saw a big difference between the meetings that we conducted in the conventional college classroom type space vs. the ‘collaborative space’ …. People relaxed more, put down their guard and spoke more freely.” –Darrin Kotecki, GPD Group President
With the limited space, we wanted to change the perception our company had about the modern work environment. The design scope needed to address six key requirements – private offices, a conference room, work stations, a production area, a flexible teaming space and a kitchenette. We started by eliminating walls within the space and constructing necessary walls out of glass to transfer the most natural light into the space, centralizing the private offices in the corridor with glass fronts to create the open plan. Offices and individual work stations are smaller than the typical GPD spaces, so multifunctional fixtures and furniture were selected to maximize storage and work surfaces. The large collaboration space has multiple seating options and large, moveable magnetic marker boards to encourage impromptu creative meetings. With so many functions required for each associate, we really focused on materials and furniture with multiple purposes. Our team looked to specify finishes and furniture separate from our national standards, which included open workstations with plenty of work surfaces and file cabinets, both mobile and stationary, have upholstered tops to function as seating and storage in one to allow for impromptu meetings.
“First thought, WOW, I can’t believe I get to work here! Feels like an upscale, modern office in a big city that you would see on TV.” Alexandria Reiter, Marketing Coordinator
We were inspired by how creative ideas flow more freely in an open space and how our minds and bodies respond to being in or around nature. Capturing natural light, framing pleasant views and specifying materials that are reminiscent of natural surfaces were key parts of our vision of the space. We incorporated research in key areas of ergonomics, biophilia and office well-being for our associates. This combines to create an open culture for the associates’ creative growth within their personal work and with others.
“… it holds all my things just great, and the space is so much more functional than my old office. It is a very efficient space!” Mike Morrison, Director of Marketing
Almost every surface, whether horizontal or vertical, can be utilized for individual or group work, to pin up sketches, draw concepts and discuss designs. The workstations are equipped with the most ergonomic sit-to-stand desks, monitor arms, task lighting and task chairs. Some furniture selections were mobile to be flexible for the individual throughout their work needs but also could hold a group in any work exercise with a few simple movements. Private offices utilize every surface to be the most efficient and flexible space for the individual. The private offices furniture systems installed take advantage of every vertical and horizontal surface to create ultra-efficient offices. The moveable wall system gained better use of the space by having the ability to make sections of the wall magnetic marker board, tack board and a slat wall with the bonus of being able to reconfigure much easier than typical walls.
Within the first few months, the associates noticed a complete 180-degree experience from their past offices and workstations. The initial thoughts were that it would be too open to complete tasks that need your full attention while others were meeting. Or that the space had too much glass and would cause distractions and not enough privacy when needed. One associate felt that there was too much natural light and it would cause work issues with the technology. Most, if not all, of these concerns never came to fruition after months of being in the space. In fact, the energy in the space is greater and more open to all the new creative ideas we were designing for.
“It is easier to approach colleagues because you can see and hear them from your own seat. There are more collaborative spaces, so it’s easy to gather and discuss things on a whim.” Maria Krause, Marketing Coordinator
Each piece of the design, whether a finish or furniture, had a large part in how we could provide the most functional and inspiring space possible. Using well-designed products and materials took the interior to an inspiring level. The combinations of updated finishes and furniture helped to show our associates, the executive board and our clients how we can create healthy and functional work spaces. The team was able to incorporate the needs of the marketing department by meeting all of their requirements, which has led to a new and improved working environment and demeanor. The marketing space – though different in detail from other GPD spaces – can easily be identified through use of similar colors, angles and design details. All the standards exist in the new space, but they have been updated to reflect the more contemporary and open office. Being such a success, both aesthetically and functionally for our marketing department; many of these features will be implemented into remodels in our other offices nationwide and, while it was an upgrade in our Akron marketing office, it is now a showcase for potential clients.
“We are rocking! It is way better to be creative in an environment that supports creativity and allows us to produce some great work.” Mike Morrison, Director of Marketing