Author: Nancy Hogan, Director of Studio Services

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Photo by Michael Ainsworth/Staff Photographer, The Dallas Morning News

My 28-minute DART rail commute to and from work provides me with a great opportunity to chill out and listen to podcasts. One of my favorites is the “TED Radio Hour.” If the teaser snippets sound intriguing, the full TED talk is usually worth the time. This past May 20, a story called “The Power of Design” caught my attention. The five story snippets were all fascinating, but the one that really grabbed me was Marc Kushner’s “How Do Buildings Make Us Feel?

As a kid growing up, Kushner hated the house he lived in. The only route between his bedroom and the bathroom was exposed to the entire living area. Privacy was impossible, which is especially awkward for a sensitive kid. So the future architect got his first lesson in bad design. Over time, he gave a lot more thought to the effect architecture has on the way we feel.

Good architecture is the result of careful thought and smart design being applied to the most basic functions of life and work. A well-designed environment can actually make us feel more relaxed, or more secure, or more inspired, or more productive.

After listening to TED Radio host Guy Raz interview Kushner, I then listened to Kushner’s entire talk entitled “Why the Buildings of the Future Will Be Shaped by…You.”

As I listened, I kept thinking, “That’s what Stan was doing!” I had read The Dallas Morning News article, “Richards Group Gets New Digs,” that was published shortly after we moved into the new building, and I was intrigued by the journalist’s observations and Stan’s comments about the process and the result. He was obviously very proud, and for good reason.

Our previous building was one I’d spent some time in during the mid-80s when my father-in-law worked for ORYX Petroleum. Though updates had been made when The Richards Group and our affiliate companies (of which Click Here Labs is one) moved in, in late 1995, there were things about it that were still a bit dated. But it was home. We had our own workspaces, and our cubicles were sectioned off in what we referred to as “pods.” Over time, work neighbors became pod families, having Friday pod breakfast together, growing together professionally and personally, friends as much as coworkers.

When our 20-year lease was about to expire and the rent was about to be raised dramatically, Stan decided that it made the most sense to build the agency its own building. With the purchase of a choice spot in Uptown at Central Expressway and Blackburn, and the selection of architectural firm Perkins+Will, the future began to take shape.

As the new building was being designed, we “Groupers,” as we call ourselves, were invited to answer a survey about likes/dislikes/needs/wishlist, etc. More than once, Stan has said, “I’ve tried to create an organization that’s as egalitarian as it can be and still run as a business.” We all felt our opinions were being seriously considered.

The project came together and was completed in 22 months, a faster schedule than most projects of that size. We had all watched it rise from a hole in the ground to 18 stories tall in less than two years. We moved into our sleek new steel and glass building on January 17, 2015.

Like several of my coworkers, I was very apprehensive about the open-space concept. Most of us worried about loss of privacy and personal space, loss of storage and the possibility of background chatter and distraction. I think most of us tried to keep an open mind, but big change can be unsettling.

But we moved in, found our assigned spots and began to experience our workspace future. Right off the bat, I was pleasantly surprised. Maybe “relieved” is a more accurate term. Why? It presented a great example of “less is more.” Especially with the “stuff” I thought I needed to be productive. But I realized I need less file space because, of course, what we do is digitally generated and backed up on the server. I was also surprised by how effective the white noise produced by the HVAC system is in creating audio privacy. Background chatter isn’t an issue, and if you want to have a conversation with a neighbor, the sound doesn’t carry past your immediate vicinity.

On Day 2 after the move, when my first day’s positive impressions were confirmed, I went into Stan’s office and confessed that I had been prepared to hate it, but that I actually LOVE it. Loss of the pod family was never an issue. Our old breakfast pod stayed together, plus we added more new neighbors to it.

So, how does the architecture make you feel, as architect and TED talker Marc Kushner would ask? I think it makes you feel like you’re a part of something smart, inventive and forward-looking. Not to mention cool.

The amazing views in all directions, the exposed materials and mechanical systems, the handy kitchens and conference rooms, the comfortable workspaces, the fabulous gym and yoga room, the common areas on every floor – it all works together to stimulate our creativity and productivity. Just as an ideal work environment should.

When I glance up from my computer screen, I might see the early light on the downtown Dallas skyline, or maybe a plane on final approach to Love Field, or maybe a rainstorm moving in from the southwest.

If I walk to the copy machine or the kitchen, it’s not unusual to cross paths with a colleague, and it’s not unusual to have an “oh-by-the-way” conversation about a project we’re both working on. Turns out, the open space concept actually does connect and energize people.

If one of the main purposes of good architecture is to inspire good feelings, I think the building at 2801 North Central Expressway is a great example.

If you’re interested in more on the subject of how architecture affects feelings, here’s a good article from the Harvard Business Review entitled “Workspaces That Move People.”

References

  1. The Power of Design.” TED Radio Hour, May 20, 2016.
  2. Kushner, Marc. “Why the Buildings of the Future Will Be Shaped by…You.” TED, March 2014.
  3. Hall, Cheryl. “Richards Group Gets New Digs.” The Dallas Morning News, January 31, 2015.
  4. Waber, Ben, Magnolfi, Jennifer, and Lindsay, Greg. “Workspaces That Move People.” Harvard Business Review, October 2014.