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Curves plus space equals creativity

Barbara Marquand

Unlike many companies that have moved south of downtown, HMC Architects of Reno wanted to be in the heart of the city when it moved to larger quarters last year.

Today the firm’s commitment to Reno’s core is reflected not just in its new address but in its office design.

From the first step into the reception area to the employee workstations, a sweeping view of downtown is there to behold.Huge windows line the exterior perimeter overlooking the heart of the city and providing a breath-taking view of Peavine Mountain.

As soon as the firm chose the eighth-floor space at Liberty and Virginia, its design team knew it wanted to make the most of the view, says team member Lisa Moritz, an HMC architect.

Instead of chopping up the office with cubicles and walls, the team designed an open plan, using glass and low partitions to divide space.

A large, sliding glass door, for instance, lines the conference room, providing privacy yet preserving the openness.

A rotating glass wall just off the reception area defines a smaller meeting space and serves as functional art.

The wall features a sandblasted geometric design, and is subtly lit from above by small lights that change color.Hinged at the floor and ceiling at one side, the wall can be swung like a door and then fixed in different positions for flexible meeting space.

In the studio,waist-high walls separate 16 workstations, so every architect has a window view.Moritz says besides maintaining the open design, the low walls promote communication among architects and project managers.

The only walled office is at the junction of the two angled exterior walls.

Just off the reception area between the administrative and architect workstations, the space is ideal for senior principal Jerry Eich,who must be accessible to all employees and clients,Moritz says.

HMC’s downtown digs are about double the space of the cramped quarters the firm had outgrown on South Wells Avenue.

That space was chopped up, and employees had to walk across the office to look out the windows.

“The pulse has stayed the same, but the pressure is lower because we’re not climbing all over one another,” says design team member Forrest McMullen.

The new location even helped the firm recruit two of its newest employees The office also serves as a marketing tool to showcase the firm’s creative potential.

The design team experimented with lighting, vibrant colors and materials.Varying shapes of metal,wood and glass, for example, are incorporated in the one-of-a-kind reception desk.

Parts of the office feature full-height walls tapered from 8 inches at the top to 24 inches at the bottom.

The burgundy walls create appealing angles and provide cabinet and shelving space at the bottom.

The ceilings are partially open,with the upper portions painted black, and white, acoustical ceiling panels dropped into curved and geometric patterns.Moritz says the variations in the ceiling enhance the sense of openness.

“You feel you can breathe better,” she says.

The warm, amber floor, meanwhile, looks like polished stone, but is actually the original concrete floor stained and glazed.Natural flaws in the concrete give the floor character.

Although the architects enjoyed the creative freedom of designing for their own firm, they still had to consider expenses, and they discarded a few cost-prohibitive options.

But by working closely with general contractor Q&D Construction, they were able to incorporate most of the dynamic elements they wanted and stay within a $400,000 construction budget.

“Nothing was contrived, and it all works together,”Moritz says.

The biggest challenge was meeting a tight time frame – six months from the start of the design to moving in.And all the construction work had to be done from 5:30 p.m.

to 7 a.m.

so workers wouldn’t disturb other building tenants.

The new digs were worth the hard work, though.

Since the firm moved in July last year,morale and productivity have gone up.

“We all feel better being in this space,”Moritz says with a smile.