by Chris Mutter, ASLA
The future of the traditional indoor office space has moved outdoors.
It’s no secret that the world has drastically changed over the past several years. With that disruption of normalcy has come new priorities and novel approaches for landscape architecture and design professionals regarding workplace environments. Most businesses are looking for outdoor spaces to meet various needs and desires formerly delivered by indoor accommodations.
In earlier days, outdoor workspaces seemed only inhabited during planned social gatherings and required additional components, making them suitable for events. They lacked seating areas comfortable enough to work in for long periods, shade structures, and offered little to no immersive experiences that engaged guests.
The past few years’ events have significantly altered and propelled traditional landscape solutions by requiring a much more in-depth level of innovation, creativity, and cutting-edge designs which encompass immersive outdoor environments, social connectivity, and functional collaborative space.
People now want multi-functional spaces, set in nature, spread throughout each aspect of their daily lives, especially during work hours, so that they may benefit from continued health and wellness opportunities. Workers crave direct access to fresh air, sunlight, and natural surroundings to thrive and maintain focus, while companies still uphold the importance of productivity. To accommodate employee demands, businesses are seeking various means of incorporating greenspace in easily accessible courtyards, amphitheaters, and green roofs that provide all the necessary elements to yield high performance. And landscape architects are developing highly imaginative responses to deliver these solutions!
The idea for functional areas atop buildings in the U.S. is not new and dates back to over one hundred years ago. However, in the late 1800s, rooftop areas were primarily used for industrial equipment (and wet laundry!) and were most common in heavily urbanized areas such as New York City. In today’s workplace environments, state-of-the-art green roofs are reaching new heights in many cities nationwide. At HGOR, we have reveled in this, as several of our projects enabled us to present very forward-thinking concepts that offer multi-functional areas supporting work and play. HGOR has been fortunate enough to lead and collaborate on several sophisticated rooftop designs for workplace campuses within the southeast region.
Spring at 8th | NCR Headquarters in Downtown Atlanta, GA
We designed a 40,000 SF green roof at the NCR Headquarters in Atlanta for their 700,000 SF LEED Platinum office building. The goals of the project were to develop a transformative space that provides a work environment that is inspirational to current employees and the next generation coming in. The result was an elaborate space set between two towers on the sixth floor that is an extension of their communal area. Employees now enjoy the benefits of nature, on breaks and during the 9 to 5, surrounded by vegetation, trees, a reflecting pool, shaded alcoves with seating and tables, artificial turf, and easy accessibility to the indoor amenities provided. We strive for excellence on every project; for this one, we received an Award of Excellence in Office/Commercial Mixed-Use Development from the Urban Land Institute of Atlanta in 2019.
Spanx Headquarters in Buckhead, Atlanta, GA
This project allowed us to push the limits of creativity by implementing a “playful meets professional” design that aligned with the iconic brand and the wishes of CEO Sara Blakely to move to a refined, more mature look. An 8,000 SF green roof—or living roof, the new term many are now using—accommodates up to 500 people and offers the flexibility of working in an operational environment or hosting large events. Elegant details reflect the nature of the brand while incorporating functional components that foster productivity. The space comprises a synthetic turf lawn enveloped by covered work and dining spaces, custom curved bench seating, and an elevated stage with an open-air counter that overlooks the streets of Buckhead. The built-in ceiling fans and heaters allow year-round usability. Many details of this workplace environment are unique to Spanx and enable their employees to connect with nature intimately.
Strategically designed spaces that encourage day and evening outdoor activities and support a broad spectrum of events for the workplace have also become a priority for our clients.
One Franklin Park in Franklin, TN
This project was particularly exciting, as HGOR won an invitation-only competition to define this future Class-A office environment. Key initiatives included creating a strong sense of identity and defining how landscapes and buildings sustainably respond to each other while respecting and preserving the natural environment. To allow for flexibility and connectivity, we designed a central amphitheater suitable for large events and over 2.5 miles of trails and networks that link the buildings within the Franklin Park complex, enabling enhanced social connection. To maximize sustainability and the significance of water as a valuable resource, we integrated a water resource management plan which includes seven natural drainage basins across the overall property. Each outdoor amenity component was thoughtfully and carefully worked into the natural drainage basins to promote infiltration and reduce the dependence on traditional buried stormwater infrastructure.
Cox Enterprises Headquarters in Sandy Springs, GA
For the media giant’s corporate headquarters, we recognized the need for creating highly functional, collaborative outdoor social spaces with elements that truly represent their dynamic company vision. What we delivered responded to their vision through a combination of areas that encourage and support health, wellness, productivity, and connectivity. The three-acre central space offers a private, park-like garden, covered outdoor dining and meeting areas, and large spaces for company events. For this project, we ventured beyond the traditional corporate landscape design with unique geometric design aesthetics utilized in various landscape and hardscape components, including a central pond and surrounding pathways, contributing to a healthier lifestyle within the Cox environment. In 2008, we received an Honor Award for this project from the Georgia Chapter of ASLA.
Since early 2020, working and enjoying flex time outdoors during the workday has become increasingly easier, and the benefits of incorporating modernized elements into the all-new outdoor workspace far outweigh the efforts needed to make them a reality. Through innovation, landscape architects can provide solutions that enhance the social workday, improve the environment, and provide a clear return on investment for clients. We have found that with continued boundary-pushing, many of our solutions make outdoor environments even more adaptable.
Chris Mutter, ASLA, is a principal at HGOR. Chris’ portfolio of work includes notable corporate-focused developments, programming, and design for HGOR’s high-profile urban mixed-use projects. Serving as Design Team Leader and Principal in Charge for diverse corporate, commercial and institutional building typologies, Chris’ approach inspires and integrates unique ideas and innovative concepts of team members from all disciplines. Chris’ current project is the state-of-the-art mixed-use studio environment, Assembly Atlanta, which recently made headlines during Atlanta’s WGCL CBS46 week-long broadcast on-site in Doraville. This project will employ over 4,000 people when fully operational and serve as Atlanta’s largest purpose-built film and television studio.