For U.S. architects working abroad, an unfamiliar system of codes and business mores can present serious obstacles. But having a knowledgeable team in place can help turn those strictures into the defining qualities of a design. In the case of Parker Hannifin’s new European headquarters, designed by Cleveland-based Westlake Reed Leskosky (WRL), that team began with a close relationship with their client.

Parker Hannifin Corp. is a Fortune 500 company that manufactures motion-control technologies: It produces everything from O-rings, to hoses, to aircraft brake systems. Based in Ohio, the company first engaged WRL to design a corporate campus, completed in 1997, as the end result of a move from a historic building in downtown Cleveland to a site in Mayfield Heights, just outside the city.

When it came time for the company to move its European headquarters from Hemel Hempstead, England, to Etoy, Switzerland, Parker engaged WRL again, this time to do an analysis of needs for land use. In Switzerland, such a study is required before property is acquired; a local ordinance states that new landowners must prove that they will use the land that they purchase. “You need to demonstrate that you’re not taking advantage of the land,” says lead designer Ronald A. Reed, FAIA. “What they don’t want is a building on 50 acres saying, ‘Back off.’ ”

Once the land use was proven, WRL was again brought on, this time to lead master planning and design. “We felt they had a pretty good understanding of our corporate culture and what we wanted to see,” says Bob Bentz, corporate manager of facilities engineering and construction at Parker. The next step was to hire a local architect. Parker and WRL each did their own research, and collaborated on a short list. Then a team spent two days meeting with several firms. “It got me used to the idea of traveling to Europe for a couple days at a time,” Reed says. Some interviews were positive, others disastrous. But the one with Burckhardt+Partner made it immediately clear that the two firms would work well together, with WRL as the lead. “They felt like a Swiss version of us,” Reed says. “The comfort level was palpable.”

Reed worked hand-in-hand with Oliver Henninger, project director at Burckhardt+Partner, who helped WRL navigate the specifics of local codes. Henninger also served as Reed’s eyes on the ground, and the two were also on the same page in terms of design and detailing. “It was an extraordinary partnership,” Reed says.

The resulting 75,000-square-foot building is sited on a hill in a corporate development. An auditorium and sales center anchor one end, with an office wing extending out to the east. The design was about “marking the horizontal datums of the rise of the hill,” Reed says.

“One of the most exciting things to us … [about the process] were the lessons about sustainability,” Reed says, but those lessons did not always manifest themselves in obvious ways. The use of natural ventilation in European offices is so prevalent as to be taken for granted. In the Etoy project, however, natural ventilation was at odds with noise regulations, so the entire envelope had to be sealed. “Because of the proximity to a four-lane major thoroughfare,the noise levels were too high to allow operable windows,” Reed says. And a train station on the other side offered no relief. “We had decibel issues all over the building,” he recalls.

A triple-glazed façade helps to insulate against the ambient noise, and it also reduces heat gain. A standard double-glazed insulated glass unit makes up the inside wall, followed by a 9-to-10-inch airspace filled with a mechanized shading system. Another pane of glass forms the exterior surface. “In Switzerland, … [air conditioning is determined by] a delta,” Reed says. ”Meaning that the interior space only has to be 10 degrees cooler than the outside. If it’s 76 outside, it might be cooled to 72, but if it’s 90, it’s going to be 80.” So limiting heat gain was crucial to maintain interior comfort and cut down on energy usage.

The glazing addressed another ordinance that requires views to the outside for every employee. “We have a very nice view of Lake Geneva,” Bentz says. “It’s not just a wow factor for customers, but for our employees as well.” A narrow floor plate that runs 25 feet from core to curtainwall—a departure from U.S. high-rise projects which, Reed says, run closer to 42 to 45 feet—ensures that everyone can see the view.

Despite the sizable learning curve, Reed cites this project as having one of the most rewarding processes of his career, largely because of the “incredible respect that existed between all parties.” And if Parker decides to expand this building as it did at its headquarters in Ohio? Perhaps the partnership can continue.

Project Credits

Project Parker Hannifin European Headquarters, Etoy, Switzerland
Client Parker Hannifin Corp.
Design Architect Westlake Reed Leskosky, Cleveland—Ronald A. Reed, FAIA (principal and lead designer); Nancy Nozik, AIA (project director); Scott Snyder (design assistant)
Architect of Record Burckhardt+Partner, Lausanne, Switzerland—Philipp Bruhlmeier (partner, principal); Oliver Henninger (associate, project director); Philippe Noverraz (senior architect)
Interior Designer Westlake Reed Leskosky—Ronald A. Reed, FAIA
Ventilation (Mechanical) Engineer Weinmann-Energies
Structural Engineer MP ingénieurs conseils
Electrical Engineer Betelec
General Contractor HRS Real Estate—Patrick Stillhart (project manager); Jean-François Caron (site manager)
Landscape Architect La Touche Verte
Acoustician AAB J. Stryjenski et H. Monti
Façade Engineer BCS
Security Engineer Hautle Anderegg + Partenaires
Geotechnician Karakas & Français
Sanitary Engineer TP
Size 75,000 square feet
Cost Withheld

Materials and Sources

Appliances Gétaz Romang (kitchenettes); Siemens (dishwasher and fridge); Ginox (professional kitchen)
Building-Management Systems and Services Siemens
Carpet Interface (Accent Flannel 338087 Grey Kelt in offices); Tisca (Wilton Standard velour, 80% wool/20% nylon in board room)
Ceilings MWH Barcol-Air (active ceilings with heating and cooling through the metal ceiling panels)
Concrete Vistona (waterproof concrete in basement walls and slab)
Exterior Wall Systems Marmoran (EIFS); Fahrni Fassadensysteme (aluminum curtainwall, compact double-skin façade)
Fabrics and Finishes Creation Baumann (Phantom II in auditorium)
Flooring RAK Ceramic tiles (Riviera, in kitchen and bathrooms); Nora Systems (Norament 925, in staircases); Earthwerks (Concrete Sky PVC slabs in kitchenettes and copy rooms)
Furniture Mobimex
Glass Trösch (façade)
Gypsum Rigips (stud walls system)
HVAC Klima; Hälg Building Services Group
Roof Bauder (waterproofing membrane; EP5 t vapor barrier; Bauder PIR polyurethane insulation); Gravel; Geneux Dancet
Lighting Regent (Regent GEO)
Masonry and Stone Concrete and sand-lime bricks
Metal Berisha Sàrl (structural works); Morand (staircase railings)
Millwork Marobag (doors); Wider (decorative)
Paints and Finishes Duca
Plumbing and Water System Perret Sanitaire
Site and Landscape Products Pépinières Soupe (trees and plants); Ménetrey (installation)
Walls Strähle Raumsysteme (System 3400 glazed office partition walls; System 2000 solid office partition walls); Kemmlit (Cell toilet partitions)