Designer Forum - June 2011
By Lori Klein
A former client called on Posen Architects to create a new home for their non-profit organization, and we, at Posen, did not have to look very far to find design inspiration for the project. The New Jersey Sharing Network (NJSN) is the designated organ procurement organization for New Jersey. Its dedicated staff works with donors and recipients, and recovers organs and tissue for transplantation. The remarkable life and death stories that the NJSN deals with daily were inspiring enough. And the idea of using a mix of new and recycled building materials—speaking to the life sustaining purpose of NJSN—seemed the perfect concept to achieve a nurturing yet stimulating atmosphere.
NJSN president and CEO Joe Roth brought the project to Posen Architects, seeking a design with sufficient work and meeting space for employees, and, more importantly, one that highlighted NJSN’s compelling mission. The former facility, outfitted on a shoestring budget 11 years ago, had become obsolete. Now, with the support of its foundation established in 2006, the organization envisioned a workplace that would honor those who became organ donors—either through tragic circumstance or selfless action—as well as operate as a vehicle to educate the public on the importance of organ donation.
The new 50,000 square foot building, occupied 24/7, includes meeting, educational and administrative spaces, along with a 7,500 square foot clinical testing laboratory. The staff, under great emotional strain from daily exposure to trauma, needed a nurturing environment that would allow them to work privately or engage and interact with others. Getting rid of traditional barriers meant looking at the workplace in a different manner.
The creation of an environmentally conscious facility was another staff request. In fact, the brochure prepared for the grand opening facility tours included a list of “green info.” Best practices for sustainability were incorporated into the design and dictated product selection, particularly with flooring. Bentley Prince Street (BPS) carpet specifications—with climate neutral certification, Antron Lumena fibers, solution dyed yarns, and Protekt and Intersept treatments—more than fulfilled the requirements for a high traffic interior open plan workplace. Forbo’s colorful Marmoleum Dual tile has the nod of USGBC and other entities, and is a Smart Certified sustainable material. Materials that are easily recognizable as renewable, such as bamboo and cork, serve as focal accents.
Posen worked closely with the management committee on product selection and practical requirements. With a wide variety of individual and group spaces to serve staff, volunteers, families and friends, the selection process could have been daunting, so a clear focus was needed. The client wanted a space that was open and welcoming, while requiring some areas to retain privacy due to the confidential nature of the work. This translated into a plan that had defined departmental boundaries and allowed for variation on a common theme. NJSN wanted to create a space with a sense of freedom and empowerment, which also gave an impression of serenity and calm.
Creating a palette of colors to both soothe and energize started with a vision of an open sunlit space—with sky blue, icy silver, warming neutrals, steel blues, and touches of green with a pop of saturated jewel tone blue—and an idea of creating an ethereal atmosphere. In walked long-time colleague Wendy Jorgensen-Tarvin from Bentley Prince Street with new product samples from the Distinctive Ikat and Vivid Ombre collections, and the project immediately achieved a calming scheme for the administrative departments, open to reception via a glass wall.
On the other side of reception, in the clinical department, a dramatic, invigorating pattern was the answer for staff, who spend a good amount of time out in the field and would benefit from an embracing warm, earth-toned setting to put the day’s work into perspective. With glass curtain walls, More Monsters Under the Bed from BPS, a personal favorite, defined the space with its interesting pattern and textural effect, and Tandus designer Suzanne Tick’s beautiful velvety cut pile carpet tile Llano Firma II created the contrasting boundary between open ceiling workstation areas and glass walled private offices.
Acoustics came into play with modular offices “sound-proofed” by a dropped ceiling extending two feet into the corridor, along the line of the office carpet. Fabrics that complement both schemes were used repetitively to pull all elements together—upholstered pieces can be moved around and continue the theme of contrasting textures. Overall, the textural quality of the open area carpets against the glass and metal finishes of the walls perpetuates the light, airy feeling of the space. Additional carpet patterns from BPS were used in public spaces. Acoustical properties of the carpet tile were needed since much of the ceiling remained open, and these were used in tandem with a recycled Tate raised access floor, to accommodate the electrical and data wires. The recycled raised flooring was sourced from several different locations.
Transitions to hard flooring happen for purposes of accent, such as outside the boardroom, where a bamboo floor follows the ceiling detail above. This theme starts in reception with a stone-look porcelain floor tile pulling in three of the colors used throughout the space. Bamboo is also used as a border in the boardroom, and, throughout the facility, hard surfaces are installed where use dictates, such as in food areas, storage and the lab.
Corridors for tech teams transporting organs and supplies between support spaces and the loading dock are finished in Forbo’s Marmoleum Dual Tile, which is good at handling rolling traffic. A four-color pattern transitions from the back entrance to a large staff break area and back to the service areas—pairing the blue and brown schemes with green and yellow accent tiles. As a homogeneous floorcovering, its resistance to bacteria and characteristics of sound reduction make it a logical choice for support spaces in a lab environment. Forbo Smaragd sheet vinyl was used in a pattern in the lab, defining bench areas. The blue, green and white speckled selections met the strict requirements and coordinated with the scheme for the entire space. Soft seating for lab staff further blurs the lines between traditional work and touchdown spaces.
In keeping with the theme of utilizing recycled materials, the design team chose Steelcase Answer workstations and Steelcase Think chairs. The average Steelcase Answer workstation contains approximately 134 pounds of recycled steel. And a Steelcase Think chair contains around 20 pounds of recycled aluminum. In addition, Posen employed toilet partitions and countertops with recycled content and chose electricity-free faucets as well as highly efficient hand dryers.
A focal point is the large curved corridor, bringing visitors to the displays that highlight the mission of NJSN. The corridor bridges the gap between raised floor and slab at the back entrance and is covered in natural colored cork tile with rich brown accents. Semicircle carpeted insets follow the architecture and carve out small seating niches for quiet work or reflective touchdown areas. This is the heart of the space, and commissioned artwork by a donor mom brings together nature and the built environment to remind all about hope and inspiration. On the opposite wall, beside names of donors, changing displays put faces to those whose lives have been saved and forever changed. It took a team that was passionate and committed to the process to complete Posen’s vision as architects and designers; as a result, the entire space is a living testimony to NJSN’s mission.
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