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Workplace Wellness: Architects Innovate To Address Human Needs

Autodesk’s 'Make Anything' tagline is brought to life in the Portland location's staircase.

With the average U.S. employee spending 34.5 hours per week in the workplace, the idea of wellness in the office environment takes on particular resonance. Wellness extends beyond the provision of on-site showers and massage chairs — it is the way design speaks to the needs of the people within any given set of walls, including how work gets done in and around that space.

Mackenzie keeps this top of mind when approaching any new project. The Pacific Northwest integrated design firm, which maintains offices in Portland, Seattle and Vancouver, Washington, put this thinking into practice in its work with Autodesk, makers of design and drafting software such as AutoCAD, as the company identified Portland's Towne Storage building as its newest Rose City digs. 

“Our design strategies included shared spaces for collaboration as well as hoteling workstations, plus team rooms that provide focused environments for tackling complex problems,” Mackenzie Principal of Interior Design Lynne Ingram said. “Autodesk’s motto is ‘Make Anything,’ so we wanted to bring their brand to life at the Towne Storage building.”

As with all of Mackenzie’s projects, this entailed extensive planning and research before design began in earnest. This includes a vision of wellness as not simply an olive branch to beleaguered employees but a nod to the realities of today’s economy, which is experiencing historically low unemployment.

"With recruiting and retaining talent growing in difficulty, the importance of applying the right design strategies for the contemporary workplace is heightened,” Mackenzie architect Brett Conway said.

Open spaces at Autodesk's Portland office are used for collaboration between colleagues.

In April 2018, Autodesk threw open its doors to more than 200 employees eager to explore the completely revamped space. Mackenzie’s design took the Towne Storage building from a century-old hulk with seismic and code issues running the risk of demolition to a sleek homage to the maker community and its neighboring surroundings.

Inside, a sculptural staircase made of raw wood greets visitors and holds a hidden message: It was designed with Autodesk’s own suite of technologies. The offices include multiple centralized lounge areas, coffee rooms and a game room along with residential-style seating groupings throughout. It is a real-world expression of Mackenzie’s deeply held belief that workplace wellness is crucial to successful design. The firm envisions wellness as a marriage of the elements that make up the modern office, whether a modern creative office or a civic facility with city offices.

Strategies applied include addressing acoustic issues with large felt panels to buffer public areas from workstations and maintaining naturalistic light levels through a programmed lighting control system and photocell dimming.

“The Autodesk design was a wonderful expression of the brand credo and became a natural progression and integration of a strong focus on inspiring innovation in the workplace,” Ingram said. “A wide variety of possibilities were researched and game-changing solutions were created. Some of these studies included ergonomics, privacy, sick-building syndrome, environmental sensitivities, thermal comfort and generational identifications. Wellness as a driver brings this all together.”

The award-winning project with Autodesk equally prioritizes the application of wellness strategies and the incorporation of company culture and corporate brand. By also addressing stress points, workplace demands and a space's changing dynamics throughout the day, successfully creating a workplace for employee wellness is about finding synergy between function and design.   

This feature was produced in collaboration between Bisnow Branded Content and Mackenzie. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.