Gensler is a $1 billion-plus global design firm that’s had an office in Minneapolis since 2007. Even as the firm’s local staff puts the finishing touches on the Dayton’s Project — the complete overhaul of the Dayton’s department store building in downtown Minneapolis — the firm is settling into its new 7,900-square-foot office on the top floor of the Baker Building just a few blocks away in downtown Minneapolis. Bill Baxley, principal and managing director, gave the Star Tribune a first look. Here’s what he had to say about the firm’s space.
Q: Your new space will serve as a laboratory of sorts to demonstrate the best of office design. What are the most notable/innovative/forward thinking new elements in your new space?
A: To be clear, this is a laboratory to test different ways in which designers, architects and planners work and can be more innovative. Our environment is specific to our modality, just as we tailor each of our projects to our client’s specific needs.
That said, some of our more interesting elements are a hinged garden — 22 rotating growing shutters on our east-facing operable windows, and a pinup wall that balances our high-tech design tools and solutions with the texture and fundamentalism of our process, including sketches, ideas, passive charrette sessions, texture palettes and handmade renderings that are all on display. It’s our version of workplace artwork.
There’s no dedicated reception, we are measuring how culture can shift when your space becomes shared space the minute someone comes off the elevators. How can that influence a client’s vision for their design? How can that influence design’s influence on the city and our communities? We plan to measure it and adapt accordingly.
There’s a dedicated cafe/conference community meeting space that allows us to bring the community in, host events and create conversations around the future of our cities. We have operable windows. To open the windows on a nice day in Minneapolis, there’s nothing like it.
This is a fully agile and dynamic work environment. We also opted out of systematized workstations with fully adjustable sit-to-stand desks; there are other places and ways to accomplish work goals based on the mode of work someone needs. Choice in space is very important.
Q: What’s an agile space?
A: Agility, with regards to office space, is all about choice for the people in it. Choosing where you want/need/desire to work during the day. Places to work are not assigned. Gensler’s Workplace Survey and Experience Index is our research telling us that places supporting choice, community and social connection perform better and yield higher job satisfaction.
Q: How will the design lab space be used?
A: We think of our whole office as a workshop and the design lab is the heart of our shop. The lab is a kinetic space that allows for design exploration though whatever means necessary. It is fully accessible to our staff and clients.
Q: Why is “getaway space” so important?
A: Sometimes you need a break to bring it all back together. Think about when you tend to be the most creative and/or open to something different. It’s usually on vacation or, as kids, when we were redirected to a new environment. A place to reset, contemplate or just get it out. Getting away is a key to untethering design thinking from the expected.
Q: Why no traditional front desk?
A: We wanted to explore the removal of all filters with regards to approachability. The space is as much for us as it is for all of our clients, community partners and collaborators.
It is also testing our Minnesotan sense of hospitality. No barriers also requires us, as a team, to naturally communicate more, have more awareness and be more engaged with everyone who steps off the elevators.
Q: Does your new space resemble other Gensler offices?
A: This space is uniquely Minneapolis and represents our maker culture of design. It reflects our local roots and features other work by the city’s local maker community such as Sisyphus [Brewing], Hennepin Made, Wood in the Hood and Golden Age [Design.] I have visited many Gensler offices, and while I can’t put my finger on any resemblance or replication, our place is both easily recognized as a Gensler office.
Q: Is the “open office” concept really dead?
A: What matters first is that the design — whether open, closed or a mix — meets the needs of the employees. As workplace designers we know there are three key elements to creating a meaningful workplace experience: Flexible design based on the needs of the business; noise management; access to people and resources to move and make decisions more efficiently and effectively. The open office isn’t dead, it just got smarter through better design.