How do you build so you blend in with a field? And why bother? Because when you take stewardship seriously, you don’t build an office building in the country without grappling with what it will do to the land.
In 1985, Herman Miller decided to combine all of its design and development-related activities, then scattered in four different buildings, in one facility. Good idea. But where?
One executive proposed casually that we build on a 40-acre rural site we owned. “That’s a perfectly good cornfield,” came the stern reply. “We had better be sure we know exactly what we’re doing before we mess it up.”
After a good deal of soul searching and with help from architect Jeff Scherer, we did decide to build in the country. The question became, What form should this “office complex” take?
It became Scherer’s job to help us find a way to fit in. The final design became something that evoked a Midwestern farmyard. Like the schoolyard and the shipyard, the farmyard is a place where learning and work have coexisted productively for centuries. We wanted to honor that tradition.
Then came the construction. Having been mindful of our neighbors and the land, we also wanted to build smart. The Design Yard, as it was dubbed, cost $52 per square foot to build, inexpensive by any standard.
As popular with employees today as it was when it opened, the complex is also an award-winner (Progressive Architecture magazine, one of the top 15 designs of 1988). In 2005, an addition called the Front Door brought executive leadership to the site so that they could be closer to the design and development action. It earned LEED Gold Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).