Urban Gem: Brasfield & Gorrie

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When Birmingham, AL-based construction company Brasfield & Gorrie sought to relocate its Nashville office, the objective was threefold: To create a new workspace that facilitates collaboration among its employees, has a clear connection to its downtown neighborhood, and distinctly conveys to its clients through its design the full range of its construction services. Enlisting the expertise of Nashville-based Hastings Architecture Associates—with whom it shares a history of collaborating on more than 15 projects—Brasfield & Gorrie was able to accomplish its design goals.

“Once we saw the location, square footage, and proximity to the city core, it was a no brainer for us,” says Bill Vaughn, chief preconstruction manager at Brasfield & Gorrie, about the firm’s selection of a prime site in The Gulch—a dynamic neighborhood of urban redevelopment in Nashville—on which to build a gem of a double-height, LEED-silver certified building with one full wall of glazing. “We had been in our old building outside the city for eight years, and everyone was just clamoring to get back to the hub."

In an environmentally conscious move to reduce construction waste, the architects used a palette of raw materials and few finishes, including glass, steel, concrete and exposed systems, all contrasted against warm wood. “We didn’t have much drywall or framing, and we were conscientious about how a space with 19-ft ceilings would operate,” explains Matt Spaulding, Hastings’ project designer. The underside of the exposed slabs was sprayed with a product that’s both acoustic and insulating. And although the full wall of windows with high-performance glass allows for diffused daylight penetration, as well as city views, the north facing positioning of the building prevents solar heat gain, as it receives no direct sunlight.

For the interior design, “Brasfield & Gorrie was moving out of a traditional office space into an open plan environment, and we were hoping to push them to an approach that was even more open than what they were considering,” Spaulding explains. “With the volume and the odd shape of the floor plan in the new space, it seemed like it would be a shame to have standard office breakdown.” So, while Hastings and the client both knew that shifting the office culture from behind closed doors to open plan would be beneficial for fostering collaboration, communication, and overall energy, the quirky floor plates—19 feet high by 30 feet deep—challenged the designers to get creative with delineating space.


“The whole project was about juxtaposing something really refined against something more rough and tumble.”
—Bill Vaughn,
Chief Pre-Construction Manager,
Brasfield & Gorrie




One unusual element Hastings introduced would become the true showpiece of Brasfield & Gorrie’s new office: Shipping containers were repurposed as small meeting spaces. “The first time they showed that idea to us, we couldn’t visualize it,” Vaughn admits. “But we trusted them. And it’s probably the most talked-about feature in our office. Everyone who comes in is just blown away by the shipping containers. They make such a big statement, and they’re used all the time for small meetings, private phone calls, video chats. I’m not sure how we could function in this space without them.” Hastings worked with Teknion to specify custom Optos glass fronts on the shipping containers. “The challenge was to figure out how the Optos sliding wall system would function in this application, and how connection points would be made, while keeping the containers as raw as possible,” Spaulding explains.

Hastings also designed some more traditional meeting rooms, including several spaces on a mezzanine level that overlooks the main workspace below, and a conference room with a stunning, wood-truss cathedral ceiling. It’s one of Spaulding’s favorite design elements, as it perfectly captures the juxtaposition of refined, warm wood with the rough, raw construction materials.

While about 80 percent of the office features open plan workstations, there was also a need for some private offices, which are set to the core with Teknion Optos glass fronts to allow for light penetration. “If/when Brasfield & Gorrie needs to morph the space, the flexible system will let them move walls, and if they need to change some of those glass-fronted offices into free space, that will be possible with a minimal amount of work,” Spaulding says.

Furniture selection was also key to unifying the design scheme. In addition to the Optos walls, Brasfield & Gorrie selected Teknion’s District workstations with Livello height-adjustable desks and add-on storage for open plan work areas; Altos conference room walls; Expansion tables; and Sabrina, Projek, and Variable chairs, as well as Studio TK ancillary furniture in lounge areas, casual meeting spaces, and reception, including Infinito, Metropolitan, Iuta, and AC Lounge seating; Qui tables and ottomans; and Envita tables.

“The Teknion collections fit the look that we were after—modern but not too flashy,” Vaughn says, admitting that when they first started discussing furniture, he thought it was as simple as picking a desk or a chair. But he soon realized it was much more than that. “We’re here for eight to 10 hours a day. It needs to feel like home away from home. You have to be happy in your environment.

“We also just love how the Teknion furniture has the tech factor and the refined finish we were looking for,” adds Vaughn. “The whole project was about juxtaposing something really refined against something more rough-and-tumble.”

By Danine Alati



 

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