Chris Montroy and I were fortunate this year to give a presentation to the Alberti Program at Washington University. This is something we’ve been doing for about the past 5 or 6 years now. The program is run by Gay Lorberbaum. (factoid – Gay was the first Design Studio Professor I had when I was an undergrad at Wash U – back in the olden days). In previous years we’ve talked about Sketching, Sustainability, Building Systems and general “This is what we are doing now” topics. This year our presentation was on “Things that used to be something else” or “UTBSE”. Architects might refer to this as “Adaptive Reuse” but we thought UTBSE was catchier. We borrowed the thought from the authors of the website “Used to be a Pizza Hut”. For more on that, there’s a great story on the podcast 99% Invisible.
We used several things as examples – warehouses that are now schools,
Former Warehouse – now a Learning and Community Center
factories that are now offices,
Former Factory – now an Office Building
or one of our current projects, a barn that’s now a conference center. In the spirit of the day, we brought a couple of boxes of stuff from the office that the students re-purposed as models for a house they designed.
Students getting ready for the presentation
This is a wonderful program. Gay has recently expanded her reach – she’s now part of a similar program called “Building Futures”. This looks like a great program too – looking forward to what the future generation of aspiring architects creates at both these programs!
For the past few months we have been hosting “Friday Office Presentations” on a variety of the subjects revolving around architecture. The presenters are members of the Fox team who want to share interesting architectural trends with the rest of the office. This past Friday’s presentation was focused on a study performed by Terrapin Bright Green entitled 14 Patterns of Biophilic Design – Improving health and well-being in the built environment.
Terrapin Bright Green is a team of researchers that collaborates with organizations to challenge assumptions and develop solutions that lead to improved environmental and financial performance; information that we as architects can point to when the client is looking for scientific evidence to support our design ideas. The study is particularly interesting because it’s focused on outlining criteria for ways to improve the health of building occupants. A Link to the Terrapin Bright Green website is listed below where you can read the entire study.
After reviewing the patterns identified in the mentioned study we have realized that we have been using similar design principles in all of our designs long before the study was published.
Here are some examples:
We strive to create environments with exterior views and a strong connection with nature. (Terrapin Bright Green – pattern No. 1.)
We work closely with our consultants to create thermally comfortable environments. Furthermore we incorporate operable windows to create airflow variability. (Terrapin Bright Green – Pattern No. 4.)
We utilize use of natural and sustainable materials (Terrapin Bright Green Pattern No. 9)
Based on client needs we strive to create open and freeing environments. (Terrapin Bright Green Pattern No. 11)
In large and open spaces we like to create out break out areas. These breakout spaces serve as areas of withdrawal from the main space. (Terrapin Bright Green Pattern No.12)
We try to incorporate a certain level of mystery in our designs which evokes interest and draws building occupants further into the space. (Terrapin Bright Green Pattern No.13)
Last week the Fox Team had the privilege of visiting the Steelcase Global Headquarters and Learning University in Grand Rapids, MI. While there, we met with Steelcase employees from several departments about how their research on collaboration could be used for the Emerson Innovation Center “Helix” currently being built on the University of Dayton campus. As a result, we were able to tour their entire campus and see their exceptional architecture and universal furniture design. Steelcase has built a reputation on workplace products, but their commitment to innovating the entire industry is what drew Emerson to ask, in what ways could they optimize the innovation process at the Helix.
The daylighting in their Learning University, an old converted manufacturing warehouse, was fantastic, and they have one of the world’s most work-friendly cafeterias, but it was their ideas on learning classrooms that I found to be the most inspiring. They currently call the project LearnLab and it’s a way of thinking about classrooms differently. Starting from the traditional classroom layout with students all facing forward towards the instructor, they’re testing ways classrooms can more easily transition from the lecture phase of teaching to a more collaborative and engaging group environment. And while all classrooms are slowly finding ways to incorporate technology for the teacher, Steelcase is finding ways to incorporate it for every student in the classroom.
By examining working university classrooms to find what is productive and what things are distracting, Steelcase is finding ways to teach students about collaboration in the classroom, a skill set industries are looking for when hiring new employees. We all remember taking notes as a student and missing half of the lecture in the process, this classroom of the future is finding ways to automatically send notes to students and keep them engaged during projects. The opportunity to focus on the information rather than their ability to regurgitate it helps students focus better and immediately become more engaged during class. Even sitting in a swivel chair, which allowed students to move without getting up and distracting other students, is done to help students learn and be more productive.
The visit was great inspiration to begin thinking about how the buildings and workplaces we design are as much of a tool to their owners and teachers as they are shelter for them. Steelcase has given themselves a unique opportunity to challenge the way current classrooms are effective and keep themselves at the forefront of classroom innovation.
Despite 10″ of snow, the visit to Grand Rapids was a great success and both Fox and Emerson left with new ideas about how to make the Innovation Center an even greater success.
The Art of the Deal vs. the Art of the Relationship
Much has been written and talked about the “Art of the Deal”. And, although there is a certain art form in the pursuit and closure of “a deal”, I believe a much higher art form is the Art of the Relationship. But, much less information is available on the latter. Not surprising when you understand that the gratification that can come from “closing a deal” is infinitely shorter than the time frame, effort and consistent performance required to build a long term relationship.
I fully appreciate the effort, perseverance and skill involved in “doing a deal”. However, building a relationship requires these same characteristics multiplied hundreds of times over many years! “Deal after deal (project) requires successfully meeting challenges, exceeding client expectations, achieving quality results and increased professional capabilities.
Why am I even saying all of this? Because Fox Architects has been built on and continues to grow through our client relationships. And, I’m not referencing a “relationship” of a few years as the standard. I am talking about three decade relationships!
From the beginning our firm has been focused on building relationships and not targeting individual projects. In the summer of 1978 one of our first project opportunities was with Emerson Electric. We are now in our 36th year with Emerson. One could argue that our initial contact and subsequent early activity with Emerson could be explained as being in the right place at the right time. That’s probably somewhat true, but that cannot explain completing 36 years of successful projects, navigating through multiple changes of client contacts and supporting increasingly complex projects. A relationship of this length and breadth can only be grown over time, a long time.
And, even more importantly, our firm is organized and led by these same beliefs. Our ownership has worked together for 28 years. Fox Architects – built through and on strong very long term relationships.
These defining characteristics have and continue to differentiate and distinguish our firm!
Projects / Deals build fees.
Relationships build value.
12 / 22 / 2015
We are proud and excited to watch as finishing touches are applied to the new $150 million Reinsurance Group of America (RGA) global headquarters, opening this month in Chesterfield. This stunningly impressive building was designed for expansion and a smooth workforce transition from baby boomers to millennials.
Fox designed the headquarters interiors and was RGA’s consultant to international architectural firm Gensler on design of the core and shell.
RGA has been a client of ours for more than 20 years, so we based our design on a deep knowledge of the company.
Here are some photos taken during the final stages of construction:
photos ©Tony Schanuel
For the past couple of weeks now we here at Fox have been watching the trees come down at the Arch. Most of these are ash trees – in danger of dying anyway due to the emerald ash borer beetle. Its sad but necessary (I guess). The south leg path shown in the photo below is closed off from visitors, but we have a good vantage point from here on the 18th floor.
The first photo below was taken by Zach Foppe on October 24th. The one below that is from this morning (November 20th).
It was an amazing fall day for the groundbreaking celebration for Emerson Climate Technologies’ new Innovation Center on the University of Dayton’s campus.
The highly anticipated event was standing room only and drew the attendance of national, state, and local dignitaries as well as notable members of the University of Dayton administration.
Ed Purvis, Emerson Executive Vice President gave a special call out to Rajan Rajendran for leading the design team on the building which was named “the Helix”.
Amazing – right now there are two men hanging off the arch, taking samples of the staining. The most prominent area of staining is on the north leg, facing west, about 2/3’s of the way up. One of the engineers is hanging there right now.
Recently Bob Dunn gave a tour of the soon to be completed RGA World Headquarters to Professor Jessica Senne’s Interior Design Students, Maryville University. Elizabeth Kastl, one of the students on the tour sent us this description:
“On September ninth, our junior interior detailing class was lucky enough to have a tour of the under-construction RGA Headquarters building in Chesterfield. This building is very close to my apartment, so I have watched the construction progress with much curiosity. Though, who wouldn’t be curious about how that forty foot cantilever works? Seeing the project almost finished a few weeks ago was an amazing opportunity for our class. We have studied construction strategies through research, conceptually, and digitally; but most of us had not seen something so tangible. We were able to learn valuable information pertinent to our major in an extremely “hands on” fashion. Bob Dunn, our tour guide and a partner at Fox Architects, had all of the behind-the-scenes information of the building through its initial design and construction. He knew that we are all interiors students in detailing class, so he was able to direct the tour towards the parts of the building that most pertained to us students. We saw what happens up inside the ceiling, inside walls, underneath certain flooring materials to achieve the amenities of a building that we always consider. I know that this information will be in the forefront of our minds as we design projects in school and also out in the real world. Our class was tickled to be a part of the atmosphere of a construction site. Our excitement heightened as we tightened our hardhats, fastened our bright vests, and sported our safety goggles. The junior class at Maryville University of St. Louis cannot thank RGA, Fox Architects, and ClayCo enough for giving us the opportunity to use their space and time to further our education and architectural language. Thank you!”
-Elizabeth Kastl, Interior Design Student, Maryville University
Below are some images from the tour.
This week the St. Louis Business Journal published an article announcing an exciting project we are working on here at Fox: an energy innovation center for the University of Dayton’s campus in Dayton, Ohio.
We are working in partnership with the university and with Emerson’s Climate Technologies division to create a state-of-the-art lab facility with a focus on improving energy performance in several industries: commercial refrigeration, residential technologies, data centers, commercial kitchens and supermarkets. The design features flexible spaces that are open and collaborative in nature, including a employee support workspace, classrooms, meeting rooms, and training spaces. The project fosters innovation through the clever use of technology, and encourages industry leaders to be good stewards to future generations.
The project is pursuing LEED certification and is anticipated to open in the winter of 2015.
Read the St. Louis Business Journal’s article here .