CHALLENGE When the Seattle office of Skanska—a global company with expertise in construction and project development—decided to move its operations from its previous home of 30 years, a traditionally styled office interior with limited daylight exposure, its principals knew they wanted an energy-efficient space imbued with structural transparency radiating with natural light that would provide all employees with a healthy work environment rich in exterior views. Their search led them to a 25,000-square-foot single-floor office within a new mixed-used building known as Alley24, conveniently located one floor above the buildings designer and Skanskas project architect and lighting designer, NBBJ.
Skanska wanted the space lit primarily by way of natural light and with a minimum of task lighting to reduce the companys electricity dependency. Luckily for the designers, this LEED-candidate building was already enveloped in clear glass, a feature that allowed a significant amount of natural light to penetrate deep into the interior core.
ARCHITECTURAL AND LIGHTING SOLUTION To meet the clients daylight requirements NBBJ focused on gradating the spatial experience and reversing the typical office interior layout. Cubicles housing administrative and support staff are positioned along the exterior wall and next to the windows. Private executive offices and the board room, spaces typically placed around the interior perimeter, are located in the 10-foot-high core and enclosed with 7-foot-high clear- and frosted-glass walls, a gesture that lets natural light stream over the interior partitions and extend across the space. More important, as Skanska Vice President Tony Stewart explains, the design accomplishes an important project requirement: it dismantles the traditional corporate hierarchy typically defined architecturally via darkly lit cubicles and partitioned perimeter offices. The result is a warm and welcoming home characterized by visually intersecting spaces that both enable and encourage collaboration.
Another technique the NBBJ team used to accentuate the layout and its permeation of natural light was clipping the bottoms off the wood panels lining the corridor that cuts through the core, a space that serves as both the offices primary artery and Skanskas gallery for exhibiting its collection of project photos and construction-theme sculpture. Daylight, which streams beneath the wood panels, effectively illuminates the floor. To support this light, NBBJ lighting designer Megan Strawn looked for unusual opportunities to provide practical solutions that complement and continue the interiors vibrant quality of natural light. She attached T5HO lamps atop the wall defining the interior offices and concealed T5 lamps below the wood panels. “Integrating the lighting into the architecture,” Strawn says, “produced elegant results.” To light the artwork, Strawn added low-voltage wall- and ceiling-mounted PAR30 track fixtures. She also selected dimming controls to maintain a continuous quality of functional light throughout the office. The controls allow occupants to comfortably work at night and during overcast days. To keep the interior mood bright, NBBJ interior design principal Anne Cunningham selected desks and furnishings in light woods and fabrics, objects of clean geometric proportions, which subtly convey Skanskas Scandinavian roots. For Strawn, who cites her biggest project challenge as “being judicious with the monetary and energy budget to find a balance between the two” the lighting design creates “a space that is a comfortable, practical, and respectful; a solution with high-aesthetic intent.”