Holland America Group’s three hospitality brands—Holland America, Princess, and Seabourn—were scattered in various office buildings throughout Seattle. To bring the brands into closer alignment, the company consolidated operations in a new building near Seattle’s downtown waterfront that was still in design. Securing the five-story, 150,000-square-foot building at this stage gave SkB Architects, Holland America Group's design team, the ability to work with the building's architects to influence its design and integrate changes essential to fulfilling Holland America’s vision. The completed building resolves the challenges the company faced prior to consolidation by encouraging communication, reinforcing the collaborative spirit between the previously siloed brands and their 950 employees, and facilitating increased operational efficiency. The transition to an open-office work environment is supported by a robust variety of meeting and social gathering spaces. Some of the changes made to the building’s design include opening the atrium to each of the floors, inserting a catwalk that floats through the atrium to capture views, relocating and daylighting the atrium stairs, enlarging the roof deck to better connect employees to the city and Puget Sound, and finding ways to integrate the company’s brand ethos into basic building finishes.
Originally founded in 1873 as a Dutch shipping line carrying both freight and passengers—and instrumental in transporting hundreds of thousands of immigrants to North America—the company eventually morphed into the leading hospitality travel company we know today. The spirit of adventure, an important part of the company’s DNA, is reflected in how it seeks to explore creative and forward-looking work environments. This sense of exploration and discovery starts in the reception area, which captures the spirit of a ticket office or a hotel’s concierge desk. Adjacent waiting areas provide comfortable seating decorated with subtle cues to travel, including a compass rose etched into the center of the atrium’s concrete floor. A digital, wall-sized global positioning display provides up-to-date locations of the company’s fleet, while brass nautical clocks in the sitting area reference the company’s maritime history. According to Shannon Gaffney, co-designer with SkB, “Expressing Holland America’s brand ethos and 100 year+ history throughout their headquarters in a way that did not feel thematic or overly contrived was paramount. It could have been an easy trap to fall in and one we had to avoid at all costs. Subtle cues and well-balanced materials kept the space feeling authentic, grounded and unmistakably as one belonging to Holland America.” An open, five-story atrium brings daylight deep into the building interior and enables circulation between floors to become a visible and desirable form of movement for employees. Open to each floor, an interconnecting stair—composed of teak stair treads and handrails, wood paneling, and glass railings—dramatically connects the floors. A four-story-tall wood panel, featuring abstracted portholes aligning with each floor of the building, partially clads one side of the atrium. From the lobby, the rhythm of the portholes draws the eye upwards to take in the volume of the space, while the portholes themselves frame views of Elliott Bay and provide visual orientation throughout the office. Light fixtures, placed at one-fathom intervals, wash the wall with light. A water feature flows from a pool on the second floor down to the lobby, providing a subtle auditory reference to the brand and creates a dynamic, ever changing design element that reflects light in different ways throughout the day.
Blurring the line between hospitality and work, furnishings are both comfortable and informal. Hubs, located on each floor, provide a range of seating options to satisfy the desire for social engagement, while more isolated touchdown areas provide opportunities for quiet reflection. Hotelesque settings suitable for impromptu meetings and alternative work places are the norm. The entire office is treated as a merger of work and hospitality, a literal and figurative testing ground where staff are encouraged to seek out the best possible work environments.
Circulation paths integrate cozy eddies where staff can meet in formal and informal settings. Fixed workstations feature customizable, personal storage elements. Daylight, from the atrium and expansive glazing, is in ample supply throughout the office. Building amenities are generous and include a mother’s room, a health and wellness room, locker rooms, showers, a marketplace, a galley, coffee bars, a roof deck, and a cafe. By positioning the cafe with a prime view of Elliott Bay—where company ships regularly put into port—all staff are able to enjoy the best seat in the house.
Also within the headquarters are spaces dedicated to fleet operations and emergency response. The Fleet Operations Center, a self-contained, 24/7 facility, monitors the activities of all company ships across the globe. In addition, the Emergency Response Center and Emergency Response Operations Center, offer high-tech services for crisis management. The spaces function as independent, secure areas with their own dedicated cooling and power systems, and feature full conference facilities and entire walls of monitors and displays.