“We deliver designs to inspire, connect and perform”, says the motto of HKS architects, a well-established architecture firm that originated in Texas, USA. The firm, spanning 23 branches around the globe, has a practice ranging from institutes, stadiums, luxury resorts, health care, and many other typologies providing services to today’s challenging and fast-tech growing world. With firm faith and belief that design can improve people’s lives, HKS has pushed boundaries and included people with different professional backgrounds to channel holistic methods to clientele. To better understand the firm’s work, let us go through one of its projects in depth.
ProMedica is a not-for-profit organization that aims to provide health care and improve the well-being of society. The headquarters for this organization is an adaptive reuse of two buildings adjoining Promenade park, facing the Maumee River in Toledo, Ohio, USA. The two buildings, one a 120-year-old steam plant designed by Daniel Burnham and the second a junction building designed with the principles of Brutalism, are situated in the Rust Belt of downtown Ohio.
The company’s vision was not only to give its employees a modern, productive and healthy work environment but to bring back life to Toledo, which had suffered an industrial loss due to immense growth in urbanization, leading to major of its population moving to the suburbs. The company wished to combine all the branches’ employees under the same roof. Deciding to relocate to the downtown during depleting times suggested the seriousness with which the company wanted to improvise the well-being of its employees and the local economy.
The steam plant spread across 78,465 sq. ft is a building of red brick walls with steam stacks across the ends of the building. The plant’s interior is converted into a four-storey volume for offices, an atrium giving a sense of awe filled with ample light, and areas dedicated to gatherings and meetings. An extension of the plant is a rectangular structure of three storeys high facing the river, having an area of 45,500 sq. ft. On the last level resides a roof deck for the occupants to view the river. The face of this structure has a layer of glass and terracotta, giving the employees inside visual connectivity with the river. The extension was designed complementary to the existing plant, merging contemporary and classic ideology. (Ayoubi, 2018)
A steel roof truss, a 13-tonne bridge crane, reclaimed wood, and pendant lighting in the atrium cafe are all restored and preserved in the existing structure. The restaurant opens up to the riverwalk and the sitting outdoors. The overall addition of the materials in the extension is relatively minimal to keep the focus and values of Burnham’s vision and philosophy. The expansion is mindful of Burnham’s use of light, volume, and connection of architecture to its landscape and thus aims to avoid dominating the steam plant.
The brutalist structure, called the Junction building, is a 1,02,000 sq. ft building and is triangular in plan. The structure’s interiors were renovated, with offices occupying three floors and the ground floor containing two restaurants. It also houses a 5000 sq. ft. YMCA gym on the basement floor.
The team conceived a six-storey building to accommodate employee parking due to the lack of public transportation. The six levels can park 760 vehicles and a 5,200 sq. ft. area retail studio on the ground floor. The exterior walls are layered in metal panels and fins. The north face of the building overlooking the riverfront parks has a large projection screen to engage with the people. Adding the screen was to include more functions in the parking building. The projection screen can host public movie showings, bringing the residents of Toledo and employees of ProMedica together. The promenade park is a part of the urban design for the riverfront. It contains spots for public events, festivals, concerts, and markets. There are art installations at different intervals in the park. (McKnight, 2018)
The riverfront embraces its position as an urban nucleus of the site. It welcomes the residents of Toledo to reconnect with their city and celebrate the site’s history and heritage by encouraging people to stroll around the riverfront and enjoy the view. (Ray, 2017)
The team HKS adopted biomimicry methods, and the design concepts suggest employees’ connection with the spaces and views beyond office areas. This allows employees to take their work or meeting outside and have a snack at the promenade.
The result of this ‘community-betterment’ driven project led to 1000 jobs being bought in downtown Ohio. ProMedica has hosted over a hundred events at the Promenade park, with over 25 markets supplying local produce to a former food desert. A dozen retailers and new developments planned to move downtown, which includes a 4-star hotel and a 30M $ residential development. ProMedica proves that when investors and designers come forward with a sincere goal, the result can revive an entire city. The strategies of HKS, along with the company’s vision, have been a catalyst for the community and have improved the workplace transparency and culture that a company needs. While the designer’s team has worked to improve the efficiency of the workplace, the company has come up with ways to share its legacy with the city and its citizens. (HKS, 2019)
Ayoubi, A. (2018, April 09). Architect. Retrieved from architectmagazine.com: https://www.architectmagazine.com/project-gallery/promedica-headquarters_o
HKS. (2019, July). Retrieved from hks.inc: https://www.hksinc.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/20190227_ReWORK_ProMedica_HQ_email-1.pdf
McKnight, J. (2018, April 04). Dezeen. Retrieved from Dezeen.com: https://www.dezeen.com/2018/04/04/hks-revives-historic-buildings-promedica-urban-healthcare-campus-toledo-ohio/
Ray, S. J. (2017, September 13). HKS. Retrieved from hksinc.com: https://www.hksinc.com/our-news/articles/promedica-headquarters-transforms-downtown-toledo/