As light interacts with the structure’s shapes throughout the day, the complex gives the appearance of a kinetic sculpture.
Originally intended to be a 50,000-sq.-ft. new national headquarters comprising two separate buildings with the option to expand, the American AgCredit building in Santa Rosa, CA, blossomed into a 120,000-sq.-ft. work of art. This “building in motion” became two organically shaped buildings surrounding a central courtyard, bridged together on two levels. The top floor has a roof walk that connects the upper wings of the building. As the light interacts with the shapes throughout the day, the building presents more as a kinetic sculpture than a headquarters of an agricultural financing institution.
TLCD Architecture, Santa Rosa, worked synergistically with client and contractor, Jim Murphy & Associates, also of Santa Rosa, to bring the many goals to fruition—a flexible floor plan to accommodate rapid growth and change, collaborative space and transparency to reflect the company culture, and an energy-efficient and sustainably designed structure.
TLCD served as architect and interior designer, providing a cohesive approach towards the design. With flexibility at the forefront of the client’s goals, concepts like circulation, indoor/outdoor connection, space for individual concentrated work, places to connect, and flex space were all part of the project. To achieve a light-filled interior, the shallow building is wrapped in a glass façade so light from the surroundings and the central courtyard flood the interior with natural daylight. The glass allows occupants to connect to the outside views and one another from almost every angle.
Creating the most agile interior possible to satisfy the requirements of the workforce at the headquarters, different work zones were addressed throughout the floor plan. From open-office workstations that convert from sitting to standing positions to demountable semi-transparent private office partitions, flexibility was the main objective.
This concept was further carried into the two meeting/project rooms that are adaptable for various-sized group work. To achieve this, TLCD designers specified two NanaWall, Corte Madera, CA, single-track, sliding-glass wall systems to be opened or closed to suit the needs of the group. “We were looking for a product that was easy to operate, energy efficient, very clean lines, and modern. We are very comfortable using the NanaWall product and that was our ultimate selection,” said Don Tomasi, AIA, TLCD principal.
The 9-ft.-9-in.-tall panels conveniently slide into a parking bay when open, and close with simple operation when the space needs to be occupied by two groups working on different projects. “One of the most important things we did relative to the interface between the indoors and the outdoors is to use sliding glass partitions,” Tomasi said. The use of opening glass walls allows visual connection balanced with the required acoustical privacy for groups working in tandem.
The third-floor executive boardroom is the pièce de résistance, situated in prime orientation to capture all the beauty the location has to offer, with stellar views of Mt. St. Helens, the surrounding hillsides, and the fields of grapevines surrounding two sides of the building. Furthermore, agility is displayed with the installation of an impressive 10-ft.-tall x 38-ft.-wide opening glass wall that adjoins the boardroom with the adjacent outdoor patio. The operable wall fills the space with fresh air and natural daylight, making even the longest of meetings enjoyable with a flexible space that is able to breathe and adapt to the requirements of the meeting or event. NanaWall single-track sliding HSW60 was “the only choice” explained Tomasi. Because of his previous experience with the product on other projects, he knew that the opening glass wall would provide the panel height and aesthetics that was needed.
“My favorite part of the building, and I think most people’s favorite part of the building, is the boardroom and the outdoor deck connected by the sliding glass partition. It has an absolutely stunning view to the hills, the vineyards. It is a unique space and there is nothing else like it,” Tomasi stated.
With sustainability a high priority to contemporary commercial building practices in this region, American AgCredit headquarters exceeded the U.S. Green Building Council (Washington) LEED requirements for Gold-level certification. The pigmented exterior perforated zinc panels over the curtain wall were used to mitigate some of the impact of the sun and to provide structural sun shading. Furthermore, “the screen was designed to provide a sense of motion around the building. The idea being, as you go around either the courtyard or observe the building from the outside, the views are constantly changing, the image is constantly changing. It is always a new experience as you are looking out into the courtyard, as you are moving from one space to the other,” Tomasi said. Raised floors accommodating wiring and displacement-air distribution provide energy efficiency and superior interior-air quality. Furthermore, environment-controlled motorized window shades and a plethora of daylight harvesting minimize the energy consumption of the building and yield a comfortable workplace.
This building in motion encourages the occupants and visitors to explore all it has to offer—from inside to outside, across bridges, and through various outside spaces, to the adaptable interior spaces.
The interior environment is further highlighted with smart furnishings and impressive artwork. Three walls in the interior are home to large installations from the epic rammed earth wall at the reception area that is formed with layers of soil collected at the various branch locations of American AgCredit across the U.S., to a two-story cowhide wall mural that tells an aerial story of the surrounding agricultural land, to the wine-barrel wall representing the many local clients of the Northern Californian location. All these well-chosen details provide a modern and forward-thinking workplace environment.
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