This project offers an opportunity to converse with a magical site and an enlightened client resulting in a constructed story about Abercrombie & Fitch. The story begins with a choreographed entry through the site and a guided tour of its’ innate qualities: a discovered Native American archeological site; open fields and meadows; dense woodland; wetlands and ravines; clear streams. Passing through a translucent and glowing “un-covered” bridge, the office campus buildings reveal themselves through the trees as they adjust to the landscape and topography by bending around trees and stretching towards scenic views. Parking, located behind the office campus, consists of smaller outdoor “parking-rooms” that maintain existing tree-cover and minimize paving. Employees enter the office campus through the forest on narrow paths, the woods acting as a filter to keep cars out and allow people through.
The quest for natural light, views and a ”village in the forest” led to a bent and “broken” configuration that snakes through the woods, cracking open at points where people gather. This meandering form grips the immediate site and organizes the cluster of additional structures that complete the program.
The office campus is unified by an external street containing outdoor workplaces, studio sheds, covered walkways and a fire-circle. This street is further defined by entrance towers, “flying” dormers, changes in materials and ‘slices’ carved out of the sheds, all of which enliven the relationship of employees to the site and, more importantly, to each other.A wood-clad “tower of power” housing the M/E/P plant anchors the eastern end of the street while an outdoor “design” deck overlooking a ravine marks the western end. Adjacent to the tower is the rusting steel dining “barn” and fitness center that faces an open “common”. The CEO area, which includes conference rooms and a welcoming ‘meeting’ porch, is located front and center from the main entrance to the office campus, under an elevated “lookout” tower.
Wood surfaces help define where people gather or enter. The main entrance to the office campus consists of a covered wood-clad ‘porch’ while another important entry is located beneath a large “slipping” wooden-framed dormer to provide exterior shelter. An exterior stair wraps around an outdoor fireplace serving as a theatrical scaffold for meetings, complete with a roof opening. Finally, a fire-circle suggests that work and play co-exist, that the outdoor spaces are meant to be used and not just admired.
The interior landscape of the buildings consist of clusters of large worktables in open, light-filled sheds. Enclosed spaces within these areas are limited to special offices and conference areas, often occurring as tall towers flanking two-story voids. Storage spaces, small meeting rooms and display areas create a train of “subway cars” that glide through the sheds and create accessible common areas.
This is a workplace that promotes interaction and innovation. It takes clues from the language used to describe the A&F brand: relevance, lifestyle and authenticity. It is a response to the evolution of the office: now, more than just a place to work.