NBBJ Columbus

Flanking a glass-walled conference room, a system of custom blackened steel tubes and wood shelves displays study models of NBBJ projects. Photography by Sean Airhart

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When the Columbus, Ohio, studio of NBBJ left a corporate building in the suburbs for downtown, the firm wanted to emulate a model that it had created many times for others: the tech office. Like that typology, the idea was to design an environment that fosters entrepreneurialism, creative thinking, and experimentation.

NBBJ’s new workspace is much smaller than its previous one, shrinking from 60,000 square feet, with 375 to 400 square feet per employee, to 20,000 square feet, with about 150 square feet for each of the 130 employees. But what team members lost in personal space they gained in a highly desirable, energetic location and, perhaps more importantly, unique collaborative areas that are designed to get people away from their desks, increase workplace variety and inspiration, and encourage originality.

“It’s sort of a playground for people to be creative,” says NBBJ Principal Edwin Beltran. “We wanted to support different modes of working. Our culture is so much more immersive than it once was.”

The long, linear office is organized with distinct hubs along a walkway. A full-scale graphic ruler on the floor runs the entire length of the corridor, serving as a scaling device and an organizational tool. Work zones with benching desks along the central circulation spine are adjacent to informal spaces with furniture suitable for casual meetings, including standing-height tables and high-backed lounges. Focus rooms allow teams to meet in private, while smaller wellness rooms give individuals needed privacy. Hallways are filled with pinup boards and writable surfaces.

As a bonus, an outdoor terrace serves as a social gathering hub with a view of the city. Near the terrace, a multipurpose pavilion—clad with a folded, geometric felt wall—is referred to as the Idea Garage. The pavilion, which houses the firm’s resource library, is flexible to accommodate charrettes, project critiques, and presentations.

Echoing the startup culture
The look and feel of a tech workplace is further evoked in features, finishes, and fixtures, such as glass garage doors that can temporarily separate spaces, polished concrete floors, monochromatic carpeting, and playful dome-shaped and origamilike pendant lights. The office is embellished with artwork made by the staff, including a copper-wire sculpture resembling the city’s urban grid that floats over the reception area.

“It’s kind of a canvas for the designers to add to and hack as we move along,” notes Alyson Erwin, an associate at NBBJ. According to Beltran, the mood is significantly more playful in the new office than in the previous one, and this fosters a closer connection between staff members. This harmony has increased ingenuity, he says, and has helped NBBJ attract more young talent.

who Architect/interior designer: NBBJ. Project team: Edwin Beltran; Alyson Erwin; A.J. Montero; Doug Parris; Jason Richardson; Zach Schumacher. Contractor: Daimler Group. Lighting: Randy Fisher. Engineering: Prater Engineering Associates. Graphics: Sam Stubblefield; Robert Murray; Christina Sakura. Commissioning engineer: Heapy Engineering.
what Wallcoverings: FilzFelt. Paint: Sherwin-Williams. Laminate: Formica; Nevarmar. Solid Surface: Corian; Zodiac. Drywall: USG. Demountable walls: dHive. Resilient flooring: Bolon; Johnsonite. Carpet/ carpet tile: Tandus. Ceilings: Armstrong. Lighting: Zumtobel; LF Illumination; Mark Lighting; Amerlux; Steelcase; Insight; Lithonia; Bartco Lighting; Foscarini; Graypants; Stickbulb; Peerless; Axis. Hardware: Dorma; Rockwood; Schlage; Ives; Hager; Rixson; Glynn-Johnson; Doug Mockett; NGP; Falcon. Doors: Clopay. Window treatments: Sun or Shade; Carnegie. Workstations: Steelcase. Workstation/task seating: Steelcase; Office Link Group. Conference seating: Andreu World; Arper; Bernhardt Design. Lounge/reception seating: Arper; Herman Miller. Cafeteria/dining seating: Bernhardt. Upholstery: Maharam; DesignTex; Carnegie. Tables: Bernhardt Design; Falcon. Arper; Herman Miller; Steelcase; Custom; ApplePly; Blackened Steel. Files: Steelcase. Shelving: Rakks; dTank. Architectural/custom woodworking: MINOH; Forum Manufacturing. Signage: Harmon Sign. Plumbing fixtures/fittings: Elkay. 

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