Clif Bar is a private company guided by Five Aspirations focused on sustaining their business, brands, people, community, and the planet. When they set out to design a renovation and expansion of their Indianapolis facility, it was crucial that their chosen design firm embraced a like-minded approach to incorporating biophilic design, renewable energy, repurposed materials, and locally-sourced materials. The two-story addition doubled the size of their office space while providing a work environment that is centered around the well-being of their employees. Not a single facet of the design was proposed without linking it back to direct evidence that such a feature would matter to the people who would inhabit the space.
Biophilic Design was crucial in creating an interior and exterior that would be an invigorating and comfortable environment for workers who spend long shifts indoors. Drawing on inspiration from the native Indiana geology, the building is clad in rough limestone detailed to express horizontal strata, and utilizes shading devices which draw upon the complexity and order of natural patterns, creating a soft play of light similar to that of a deciduous woodland.
These themes of prospect and refuge continue inside, offering dynamic double-height spaces in which to host all-hands meetings, as well as intimate nooks for private rest and respite. By express intention, every single employee has the same arrival experience and amenities. Bakery staff and office workers alike are intermixed in social spaces under skylights and at critical building zones. Given prominence due to the people it serves, the employee breakroom occupies the outer portion of the second floor. It is afforded sweeping view of the outdoors, and is uniquely branded to reflect the spirit and diversity of Clif Bar’s employees.
CSO’s design process was enhanced through workplace research data provided by DORIS Research as well as input on biophilic design features from Terrapin Bright Green, who has developed biophilic design strategies for other Clif Bar facilities.
MJ Insurance is a national insurance firm headquartered in Carmel, Indiana. The company opened in 1964 with four employees and, upon moving into their new headquarters, had grown into a national firm with over 150 employees at their Indiana location alone. The design team led MJ Insurance through an involved visioning process, culminating in a series of principles to guide the project. These principles had a central theme: capitalize on and enhance an already positive company culture.
While many companies in the insurance industry build offices with high walls, MJ Insurance set out to buck norms. They moved to a highly collaborative open office environment unique to their industry. In order to support this culture-promoting design decision, the team included conference rooms, enclaves, and focus rooms of many shapes and sizes to ensure that both morale and productivity would increase in the new space. Designers worked to provide the right furniture solutions to support an open work environment with a strong need for both collaboration and privacy. Company leadership showed their commitment to the design by joining the employees in open office workstations.
The culture at MJ Insurance centers around six core values: Passion, Leadership, Personal Development, Incremental Growth, Innovation, and Fun. These values drove the entire design – from the open office configuration to the centrally located social areas – but they are most evident in a consistent branding concept. MJ’s boardroom connects to the lobby with a glass storefront, which allows a branded art installation to span the two spaces. At the far end of the conference room is a white grid with vibrant yellow plus signs at many of the intersections. That grid becomes a series of extruded white-and-yellow plus signs of various heights and sizes, suspended from the ceiling and streaming into the lobby until they end over the monumental stair. The grid represents the discipline required for leadership, personal development, and incremental growth while the shape and color of the plus signs connect to MJ’s values of passion and fun. The company instantly connected with the installation and used the concept to relaunch their national brand.
MJ Insurance asked for an infusion of fun in their space. Sliding felt panels, a carpet pattern developed, and a unique series of branding elements did just that for this hard-working group.
CSO designers conducted extensive visioning sessions with focus groups from Allied Solutions to guide and inspire the design for their new headquarters. The Allied Solutions team had the following to say about the visioning process: “When you ask employees what they want in a new space, they are limited to envisioning only the environments in which they have personally experienced. The Visioning exercise developed by CSO draws out attitudes and ideas that employees otherwise would not be able to voice when asked, ‘what do you want in your space?’ This was a key part in the overall design strategy for Allied Solutions’ new headquarters, allowing our employees to voice their unique input for the company’s new space.”
The holistic interior design, and seamlessly incorporated branding elements are apparent immediately upon arrival to Allied’s second floor lobby. There, employees and visitors are enveloped by Allied Solutions’ “Blue Culture” with views to an atrium with a grand staircase, an informal mid-level conference room, social gathering spaces, and a 3rd level conference room. By design, the activity of the office is put on display in response to feedback provided by the user groups during their visioning sessions. Research and careful dissection of information from the visioning sessions gave designers the opportunity to carefully parallel Allied Solution’s unique culture in its interior environment. The result is a unique space that embodies the company’s cultural and business aspirations.
The Taft Center, located in the Regions Tower in downtown Indianapolis, was conceptualized by the law firm to achieve multiple goals: to establish a ground floor presence within one of the most well-known buildings downtown, to provide a venue to entertain and host, and finally, to expand the conference spaces currently located on floors 31-35 to meet a growing need. To achieve these goals, Taft partnered with the CSO Interior Design Studio.
Designers incorporated simple forms with classic material choices, balanced by distinctive design features. These elements, coupled with the playful constellation of lights and identifiable repetition of the signature Taft forward slash, create a space that is fresh and exclusive in the legal profession.
Understanding the sensitivities of the business that Taft conducts, and their desire to maximize the glass within the conference rooms, the design team worked closely with CSO’s acoustician to design an all glass system that maximizes acoustic benefits. This resulted in nearly uninterrupted walls of glass, which terminate at a back-printed glass panel that features downtown’s iconic Monument Circle.
The café space, which is strategically located to incorporate a street-front presence, offers an inviting urban feel with a natural palette.
Recognizing that an up-to-date work environment would be a tool to help them enhance their culture and attract top talent, LDI hired CSO to guide them through a cultural shift to energize the office. Their goal was to provide an environment that facilitates interaction, collaboration, and the use of technology.
The interior design team at CSO led visioning sessions to determine the project’s guiding principles and interviewed representatives from each department to determine staff, work-flow needs, growth, and goals.
The interior design and corporate branding pay tribute to the rich heritage of the company in subtle ways such as the incorporation of the “Lacy Knot” in the pattern of a suspended ceiling and a custom conference table. Additionally, the design includes a new staircase to connect their two floors of office space. The stair features custom sculptural details to pay homage to the company’s history in the corrugated paper industry and milestone dates. There are a multitude of details that the design team was able to incorporate into the final design through careful research, in-depth visioning, and interview sessions with the client.
Through collaboration and funding with the City of Indianapolis, and donor support, Red Cross was able to achieve their goal of building a new, more efficient headquarters. The new building’s reduced footprint and efficient use of space allows the American Red Cross (ARC) to commit more dollars to what they do best: always being there in times of need. Flexible training rooms, a community center, teaming areas, local office spaces, and huddle spaces encapsulate the programs within the headquarters, creating an environment that promotes interaction where employees and volunteers feel energized and accommodated. Employees are not assigned desks or specific work spaces so the design of the facility is very flexible and adaptable. Amenities include a rooftop terrace that creates a respite and wellness destination, and a coffee house that connects and creates community.
The building is extremely sustainable, with the exterior wrapped in red brick, seamlessly blending in with the surrounding architectural aesthetic. The headquarters has large windows that welcome natural light creating a community-oriented atmosphere and providing views of the surrounding neighborhood of downtown Indianapolis. In addition, a key branding focal point is incorporated on the interior corridor that displays historical Red Cross artifacts, local to Indianapolis. The iconic, ARC-branded “red” is carried throughout the headquarters. The American Red Cross new Indiana Regional Headquarters is the first Red Cross facility to reflect new design standards developed for the organization by Perkins + Will.
Photography: © James Steinkamp