Contract Magazine - January/February 2018 - 68
Amenta Emma Architects
The brand strategy group at Quinnipiac University,
located in Hamden, Connecticut, recently moved
into a modern office cleverly concealed within
a 19th century three-story house. Working closely
with the university, Amenta Emma Architects-
a design firm with offices in Connecticut, New
York, and Massachusetts-devised a strategy
to transform the compartmentalized house, which
dates to the 1850s, into a collaborative, energizing
workplace for a department that had previously
been scattered across the campus. The result
is surprising and sophisticated, characterized
by transparency, abundant natural light, and
a contemporary yet playful aesthetic.
Located along the edge of campus, the house
was owned by the university for years, and had
most recently been used for other offices. In its
previous condition, though, the house was a hard
sell to the university's brand strategy group. "It had
creaky floors and was closed and claustrophobic.
It didn't feel like an office that would be driving
innovation and thought leadership on campus," says
Keith Rhodes, vice president of brand strategy and
integrated communications for Quinnipiac University.
To refashion the house, the university "wanted
fresh ideas and a firm with a modern design sense
that could transform it into an open office with
a loftlike feel," says Elizabeth Bender, Quinnipiac's
assistant director of capital planning.
Amenta Emma had worked with the university
previously and understood that this adaptive reuse
project needed to do more than accommodate an
office program. "Not only was it critical that the new
space provide an environment for communication
and sharing ideas," says Michael Tyre, principal
at Amenta Emma, "but that it embody the new,
progressive spirit of this department," which is
charged with the school's marketing, communications,
brand strategy and identity, and digital initiatives.
The exterior gives little hint of the unique
interior, which privileges openness, transparency,
and light. A vertical atrium topped by a glazed
skylight pierces the center of the three-story,
4,200-square-foot building, allowing sunlight
By Krista Sykes
Outlined in black, a striking
nested box hovers above
the ground floor and features
to infiltrate throughout. Two nested boxes-one on
the ground floor, another hovering above-establish
a focal point. Featuring extensive glazing and dangling
spherical light fixtures, these meeting rooms are
clad with cork tiles, which serve both practical and
aesthetic purposes. In addition to providing a place
to pin up during brainstorming sessions, the cork
dampens acoustic reverberations.
Outlined in black, the boxes read as quasiindustrial installations within the larger interior
volume, which is characterized by smooth white
walls and ceilings, quarter-sawn oak floors,
and recessed lighting. Birch plywood with white
laminate is used on the desks, tables, and cafe bar,
while the black cafe backsplash, stools, desk chairs,
and yellow accent wall offer moments of contrast.
Beyond simply uniting the department's
32 staff members within a single space, the layout
fosters collaboration between the marketing
staff on the ground floor and the creative staff
on the second. An open, centrally located kitchen
with adjacent cafe seating is an area for casual,
impromptu interactions on the ground floor.
To encourage the exchange of ideas, nearly all
of the staff work at bench workstations without
partitions, an intentional shift away from cubicles.
For group work, large moveable tables permit
flexibility. Aside from allowing for natural light,
the central atrium opens the lines of sight and
communication between different teams.
As the employees here endeavor to propel
Quinnipiac University into the future, its new
workplace embodies and telegraphs these efforts.
As Bender says, "the [office] design's precision
and quality is emblematic of the quality of the work
being produced by the brand strategy group." c
JANUARY | FEBRUARY 2018