Retrofitting suburbia is a 21st-century concern in America as buildings created for short life spans now require attention. The infill and improvement of suburban sprawl towards more sustainable ends includes projects like this office building, located in a business park near the New Jersey Turnpike west of New York City. KPF’s renovation of and addition to an unremarkable glass and metal office building creates a signature building for the site, which they are also master planning. The architects answered some questions about the newest addition to Metropark.
Exterior at night
What were the circumstances of receiving the commission for this project?
Following an initial RFP submittal, we met and reviewed several concept sketches for a master plan encompassing current and future build out for the entire site. A second meeting was requested; we then presented concept sketches for the first building/renovation. The project was awarded to us after this second meeting.
Detail of branch structure
Can you describe your design process for the building?
The entire design process was very interactive with client. The Rhino modeling program was heavily utilized to develop and communicate concepts and design elements. Costs were carefully monitored throughout the various design stages.
The client purchased the property which had a poorly sited, a 100,000-square-foot building and the potential for 750,000 square feet for future development. In lieu of tearing down the existing structure, which was in bad condition and functioning below current standards, the client and architect made a critical choice to salvage valuable components and recycle the structure to work for prospective tenants. Transformation of the given structure aims to reposition the property as a whole and pave the way for continuing development. Accordingly, the first building becomes a gateway to a new master vision.
How does the completed building compare to the project as designed? Were there any dramatic changes between the two and/or lessons learned during construction?
Green roof design was greatly simplified and deferred until later buildings of the master plan are implemented which will benefit from green the roof aesthetic.
Interior of office space
How does the building compare to other projects in your office, be it the same or other building types?
This site is less urban and building is on the smaller end of the spectrum of our work.
How does the building relate to contemporary architectural trends, be it sustainability, technology, etc.?
There are several key attributes that contribute to repositioning: first and foremost, the grand-scale civic plaza. Sited on the primary axis of arrival from the train station, the building’s picturesque fourth floor levitates above the street, forming an “urban room.” The void draws the street space into a room beneath a protecting overhang. A sculptural three-fingered tree column offers an art piece to the community and pivots the axis into the site. This spatial frame in plan and section generates a gateway about the western corner.
The second important attribute to repositioning the building is the integration of the landscape to unify the best qualities of suburban New Jersey environment with the building. Animating the topography creates smaller scaled arrival rooms for the car and enlivens pedestrian sequences leading to the plaza. Thus, the landscape design serves to bring nature into direct dialogue with the building.
Lastly, the new design represents a dramatic departure from the original architecture, catalyzing not only a change in perception but also a physical change in how the project interacts with the environment. State-of-the art technology and systems contribute to a sustainable approach to developing a better workplace. The project generates an atmosphere conducive to work and social discourse, while also taking full advantage of the surrounding nature.
E-Mail Interview conducted by John Hill
Ground Floor Plan
4th Floor Plan