- Open Office
- Mock-up Program
- Performance Environments: Change Management
For H+L Architecture, the difference between old and new couldn't be more extreme.
The Denver A&D firm's identity had long been associated with its former quarters, a turn-of-the-century warehouse with exposed brick and timber. Now, home is a striking new glass-and-concrete office building—LEED-certified, as well—just a long fly ball from Coors Field.
Inside, the change is equally dramatic. Whereas H+L once relied on built-in furniture and a plethora of private offices, the firm now works in an expansive space with few walls and open offices for just about everyone—partners included.
"We wanted to take a fresh look at how we work together and how we relate to clients," says Phillip Scott, H+L's director of interior design. "This move wasn't just a change of address; it was a chance to change our culture."
As part of its cultural change, H+L also resolved to integrate clients into the creative process by using its new space as a design laboratory. H+L calls its strategy the "4-D Experience"—for dream, discover, dare, and delight.
"We don't want to just sit in a conference room, listen to our clients, then go away and work our magic," Scott says. "We've created an interactive environment that allows clients to experience the design process every step of the way."
To make it work, H+L gave each of the four D's its own space. It starts in the Dream Theater, where clients brainstorm the big picture from the comfort of Celeste seating—and with occasional help from Intersect mobile whiteboards.
It continues with the discovery stage, where clients enter a largely glass-enclosed space to participate in schematic design. Caper multipurpose chairs and foldaway tables from The Intersect Portfolio are the workhorses here. H+L calls the room "Kaleidoscope" because the mobile furnishings make it easy to change things around.
"Dare" equates to design development and takes place in an open area where clients are challenged to question everything. To cultivate the proper tone, Aeron stools around standing-height tables encourage clients to move around and get engaged, rather than sit back and relax.
Finally, there's the Delight Bar, a cafeteria where clients are invited to celebrate project milestones.
To be sure the move fulfilled its promise of cultural renewal, H+L engaged Herman Miller's Performance Environments group early on to lead a series of culture and change management workshops.
"The goal was to determine how H+L's actual culture differed from its desired one—and define ways the new work environment could help close the gap," says Holly Kriger, a Herman Miller Performance Environments consultant.
Herman Miller consultants also developed a change communication plan for H+L to implement. Among the key components: An intranet site containing everything employees could possibly want to know about the new work environment.
"There's a special challenge in creating a space that will be used by architects and designers," says Jamie Jurkoshek, H+L's marketing manager. "The change communications helped us manage expectations in a way that kept resistance low and excitement high."
RESOLVE FOR ALL
Determined to promote collaboration, H+L chose Herman Miller's Resolve system for all personnel but one (the human resources director, who works in the only private office).
Resolve uses poles with attached screens in a 120-degree orientation—a light, open architecture that makes it easy for employees to connect.
Just one problem: H+L employees feared they would end up with less space than before. To reassure its wary client, Herman Miller dealer Workplace Resource mocked up the proposed Resolve typical in its Denver office and brought H+L employees over to give it a try.
The reaction was positive. Marc Gellman, an account executive with Workplace Resource, explains why he thinks it was: "The 120-degree Resolve stations feel roomier, in part because they bleed out into the office area instead of being hemmed in by a network of internal corridors."
Even H+L partners are in Resolve stations, albeit a bit larger than typicals elsewhere. As for work chairs, everyone is in Mirra, high-performance seating that balances price, ergonomics, and—especially important for an A&D firm—striking style.
Space planners further assured that employees wouldn't feel short-changed by giving each a Meridian storage tower—H+L calls them "garages." In addition, Herman Miller Options crafted custom 30" by 54" mobile Avive tables for each Resolve station—just the right size for plan drawings.
The open nature of Resolve exemplifies H+L's broader design intent—a work environment that scoffs at barriers to where work gets done. Aside from three conference rooms, the space also offers seven smaller "smart rooms" for impromptu meetings, conference calls, and instant privacy.
"All meeting rooms are furnished and finished differently, allowing them to serve as both workspace and showroom," says Jamie Pickett, a Workplace Resource account executive.
It's mostly Herman Miller furniture—Celle, Eames, and Equa chairs are represented in the meeting rooms, as are Eames and Nelson tables. H+L even selected the flooring based on what it wanted to show off, not just stand on. There's cork, bamboo, reclaimed wood, carpet tiles—just about anything a client might want to check out.
Pushing the work-anywhere idea a bit further, space planners incorporated impromptu meeting areas within several Resolve clusters—ideal for quick chats with clients or colleagues. Celeste lounge seating anchors these areas; mobile whiteboards from The Intersect Portfolio help folks get their ideas across.
Photo credit: Whitney Boykin of H+L Architecture