Designer Forum - February 2011
By Susan Dellwo
When People to People Ambassador Programs was planning to build a new 150,000 square foot headquarters in Spokane, Washington, it called on Design Source to create the interior space. From the initial interview, we knew this project presented an opportunity to showcase the client’s rich history.
People to People Ambassador Programs was founded by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956. Eisenhower believed that cultural understanding and peace could be achieved through personal interactions between ordinary people around the world. To date, eight of our U.S. presidents have served as honorary chairmen of People to People International, and People to People Ambassador Programs has grown to include locations on seven continents.
The design concept for this facility is built upon People to People’s distinguished legacy. The large facility serves many functions, including as a showcase for awards and honors, as office and meeting space, and, most importantly, as a welcoming environment for international ambassadors. In collaboration with the architect, the design’s features and finishes combine to reinforce a stately and classically inspired interior.
For the People to People Ambassador Programs’ headquarters, flooring is the primary canvas. It helps guide traffic, designate gathering spaces, and accentuate the building’s architectural features. The overall design is a reflection of the client’s brand tonality statement, which was provided to Design Source at the onset of the project. These principles can be summed up in one word—presidential. People to People represents prestige, without being snobby or elitist; care, responsibility and professionalism; an obsession with safety and security; inspiration and the ability to inspire awe; a history that is known and appreciated; intrepidness and adventurousness; energy and engagement; and leadership.
To translate these principles into the overall design, we chose to use an abundance of natural stone and wood, and accents of a traditional pattern in carpets and copper ceiling panels. The gathering spaces at People to People are generously sized with architectural elements such as soffits and coffers integrated to create repetition that results in a sense of formality. The traditional elements are successfully balanced with the more contemporary accents of floating soffits and dramatic lighting to reflect a dynamic interior that appeals to both clients and staff associates.
A striking example is the interaction of flooring materials used in the foyer’s rotunda, which creates a stunning first impression and helps designate space for each of the area’s activities. Beautiful and rich engineered wood in a cherry tone guides traffic through the space, while carpet tile generates a comfortable and inviting waiting area. Nydree Flooring’s Timeless Series 4 in Cherico was the hardwood chosen to complement the traditional carpet pattern made with InterfaceFlor’s Viscaya modular carpet tile. The hardwood is introduced at the reception desk and flows as a border into the corridor, leading to the administrative office area. The carpet pattern provides just the right look and feel to bridge new and old, while also incorporating functionality and sustainability.
To protect the hardwood in this high traffic area, walk-off mats are employed, in collaboration with areas of carpet tile, to help minimize floor damage that could be caused by scratching. Lees’ FirstStep Tile in Windswept was used in all entry vestibules and helps protect the investment in a premium flooring material.
The most impressive aspect of the rotunda is seen at its base. An eight foot diameter concrete inset boasts the People to People Ambassador’s logo and draws attention to the impressive two-story architectural feature, while vertically connecting the space to the second floor. The iconic logo features a central image of a world globe wrapped with the words “Ambassador Programs.” The outer ring of letters, reading “People to People,” reflects the overarching goal of the organization’s mission and incorporates the founding year of 1956. The perimeter of the logo resembles a gear and signifies the importance of working together.
The stamped concrete provides durability and ease of maintenance and, at the same time, allows for the creative flexibility. The mottled coloration of the concrete mimics the look of aged parchment and also provides a link to the building’s traditional red brick and mortar. To provide a frame for the space’s focal point, the concrete inset is surrounded by modular carpet tile with a traditional and formal pattern. Integrating stained concrete into the People to People project called for close coordination with the architect and the contractor. The thicknesses of the topping layer were planned in advance to ensure flush transitions between the varied finish materials.
To reinforce the stately design, the traditional modular carpet pattern used in the rotunda is repeated within the grand lounge. This space serves a dual purpose, as a cafeteria and an assembly hall. The acoustical benefits, as well as the benefits of durability and sustainability, made carpet tile a great choice for this area.
Adjacent to the foyer rotunda is the grand gallery, which contains the awards and honors that the Ambassador Programs has received. Special attention was paid to the formality of the space. Travertine tile in combination with engineered wood set a dignified tone for the gallery. Big Pacific’s 24”x 24” honed travertine with subtle contrast using the colors ivory and walnut was chosen to reinforce the space’s neutral color palette. Since the gallery is separated from work areas, it did not require acoustical treatments to minimize noise. As a result the space has a museum-like ambiance that supports quiet interaction as one views the impressive historic display.
The travertine tile in the space is installed diagonally, directly below the copper ceiling insets to mirror the ceiling pattern and complement the architectural detail. The wood flooring provides a visual foundation for the displays.
In the end, this facility’s design reflects the People to People Ambassador Programs’ vision and fosters President Eisenhower’s dream to effect positive change through cultural interaction around the world. We are honored to be a part of such a magnificent purpose!
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