Contemplating an office move, merging workplace environments, and embracing cultural shifts can be overwhelming for any company. At FOX Architects, our design team has developed processes to help our clients confront these challenges every day.
In the competitive commercial real estate market of Washington, DC, FOX Architects faced our clients’ experiences first-hand when our two offices combined in our new corporate headquarters on August 28, 2017. Over the last year, a core leadership team worked behind the scenes to introduce a welcoming, sophisticated design to the two-level 17,600 SF office located at 1240 22nd Street, NW in the West End neighborhood of DC.
More than five years ago, the leadership team at FOX Architects began strategically planning for the moment when the market would present the opportunity to bring our two offices under one roof. It started with understanding what employees needed—and wanted—in a new office space.
“Each meaningful workplace design approach should start with the people at the center,” explained Andy Yeh, Principal. “We did some groundwork for soliciting and engaging staff on a variety of topics through surveys even before we had the space. We practice what we preach with our clients, treating our staff as internal clients.”
Andy led the transition team, which also included J.P. Spickler, Principal, Marie Moutsos, Design Director, and Christina McEnroe, Project Designer.
“In addition to the surveys, we strategically created focus groups for the staff on topics, such as aesthetics, wellness, technology,” noted Christina. “You can’t design by committee, but because we had this data, staff could see that we took their input and applied it to the overall process.”
When it came to cultivating a comprehensive design vision, Andy stressed that leadership and staff need to be aligned on the character, culture, and amenities in the new space; sometimes, that does not always happen with clients.
“It helps that at FOX Architects, the leadership actually works among the staff,” says Andy. “We are immersed in the work with the team. We all wanted the same things, such as a rooftop, gym, and team conferencing options.”
When the transition team started to look at new spaces, they kept our workplace culture in mind and were careful to ensure the neighborhood was distinctly different from our previous locations.
“It was important for our team culture, since we were bringing two locations together, that it was a brand-new neighborhood for everyone,” said Marie. “Instead of allowing tension to surface with new people in an established space, we wanted this to be a new experience for the entire staff.”
Part of the new experience at the 1240 22nd location is a first-floor storefront street level presence, which directly connects the office to the wider community, including the building courtyard, coffee shops, restaurants, and street life.
“We wanted the storefront to be a signature; we didn’t want to be another anonymous tenant,” says Andy. “Instead, we want to encourage a sense of place with our staff and engage the larger neighborhood. You can walk right into our space.
In the future, FOX Architects hopes to host not only industry design events in the new office, but also open the first-floor space up to the West End community as well. The first floor is comprised of the storefront entrance, which leads naturally to a variety of flexible space, including:
“Particularly in the first-floor space, we wanted to encourage design dialogue,” noted Andy. “We used the word ‘theater’ intentionally, because we want people to get away from using the conference table. We want people to get up, move around and allow for natural engagement.”
Once visitors move through the welcoming, inviting, and innovative nature of the first floor, they travel the interconnecting feature stair to the refined upper studio space on the second floor of the office.
As a leader in the open office concept, the FOX Architects studio space seats most of the 60+ staff, including principals, in the main space with plenty of opportunities for team gathering, individual touchdown spaces, and a health and wellness room.
The space features multiple conference room options as well as the FOX Architects library and the new Design Lab, where staff can test their ideas with 3D printers and specialized equipment, improving our ability to build models and creative, hands-on solutions.
“Creating a studio space that is a neutral platform, showcasing what we do first and foremost, was critically important to us,” said Marie. “Our aesthetic is still all about people.”
We look forward to the future of the new FOX Architects office, showcasing not only the established firm we’ve become, but also leveraging our entrepreneurial spirit and ground-breaking thought leadership.