By Jenny Anderson
Every industry-changing innovation begins with a single spark. Packforum Americas is a facility dedicated to those moments of inspiration. This unique endeavor, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is a dynamic new innovation-and-learning center for generating, sharing and advancing ideas about the food packaging industry. The 28,000 square foot showroom is designed to help find new and better ways to package, handle and present food. In any design project, there are numerous elements that must come together to create an environment that meets the client’s expectations; however, at Packforum, flooring—the type, style and wayfinding qualities of the chosen products—was a key component in successfully capturing the client’s vision and intent.Packforum Americas asked Hendrick Inc. to establish a design standard for its first of a series of food packaging showrooms, which would be as innovative as its bubble wrap. Sealed Air, the bubble wrap firm, and its counterpart Cryovac intended to create a one-stop shopping experience for clients and visitors. The design concept provides the visitor with insight into the journey food takes from the farm to the dinner plate. The program for the space includes a fully merchandised supermarket meat department to help visitors see food packaging the way the grocery audience sees it; two professional kitchens, one in a theater setting for demonstrations and a second back-of-the-house foodservice kitchen to test products in a real-world setting; and a packaging equipment demonstration area with up to 15 systems in operation. The facility also features a showroom, an entertainment and dining area, and a training facility that can accommodate over one hundred guests. The site selected for the showroom is a second-generation warehouse space, which includes the required dock height loading bays and close proximity to the Atlanta airport. Although this type of space can prove to be challenging, the opportunity for dynamic design is wide open. Undulating heights on wall partitions are not restricted by a limited ceiling height, and the vast open space could be defined as the design program required. We found much of our design inspiration for the space to come from the bubble wrap and the machines that would occupy the space. Our inspiration translated not only into wall cut-out details that reflect the bubbles but also into wayfinding routes that emulate a trip through a packaging machine.Hendrick chose simple, bold designs utilizing solids, voids and exposed ceilings to add height and openness; these features combine to create the “industrial and sophisticated” nature of the facility. The design allows the visitor to learn about the history and products of the company. Functional areas were created for offices, showrooms, cooking demonstrations, equipment demonstrations and training. The flow of the design elements creates a path and energy to lead visitors through the space in a natural progression. The use of glass between areas and the replacement of garage doors with new open windows and glass doors allows vision and light throughout the space.The floor was a major element in the wayfinding system of the space. Flooring was chosen to create a defined path through the facility, leading visitors from the first step as they entered the building, following along to the equipment displayed in the showroom. The flooring was used to help move potential clients through the space easily and effectively. Packforum’s corporate colors were integrated into the space, as was a vibrant, energetic color scheme that would complement food presentation and engage the client visually. Three types of flooring were chosen for Packforum Americas: a Patcraft Linea carpet in gold and coffee colorways; for the primary path, an Amtico vinyl tile plank in a birch colorway; and inexpensive and readily available industrial vinyl composition tile (VCT) by Armstrong. Textural changes in the flooring were used to inform visitors about their location during the tour, from the soft texture of carpet in the entrance of the facility to the hard durable texture of VCT in the equipment showroom. The different textures of flooring complemented the purpose of each functional environment in the facility. When they enter the Packforum lobby area, visitors find themselves standing on the familiar texture of carpet. Providing a feeling of home, it is intended to welcome guests into the facility, countering the expected cold and hard sensation of a warehouse environment. From this point, the journey begins as the visitors are led along a vinyl floor to their next destination; the path has the appearance of hardwood and is shaped in a curvilinear lane. Visitors then reach the demonstration kitchen, where the catering chef uses state of the art technology to teach visitors about the cooking processes of pre-packaged products. The choice of vinyl floors for this area was not only to meet the client’s desires but also for the purpose of function. While aesthetics were an important factor, the flooring also needed to handle the amount of foot traffic that it would see. Another requirement was that it could be easily cleaned to maintain its appearance. This idea dictated when we specified hard versus soft flooring for the space. The flooring choices were also made with safety in mind. Given the number of people that would be touring the facility, the flooring needed not only to be attractive, durable and easily cleaned but also safe to walk on.From this point, the path continues toward the massive packaging equipment area, where machine operation is demonstrated and used in training sessions. VCT was chosen to provide a floor that was strong and would endure the weight of large equipment being moved frequently across it, without a resulting diminishment in its appearance. In addition, the floor was coated with an epoxy paint that includes grit to improve safety in this area, where a good amount of water is used for cleaning and production. The flooring here is featured in bright, vibrant colors. Durability can often take a back seat to sustainability, a factor that clients are considering more these days. While choosing sustainable materials was not a requirement for the Packforum facility, long-term sustainability was an element of consideration for this project. By choosing durable materials that would withstand the test of time and not require frequent replacement, the sustainable profile of the space was improved, and future costs for the client were greatly reduced. Luckily, the client and entire project team were open to fresh and innovative ideas, and an excited energy from everyone helped to make this project a success.
Copyright 2011 Floor Focus