As a transportation leader in the Puget Sound area, Community Transit is fast growing and serves an increasingly wider public with their multiple services. With this growth, the progressive and pioneering transit authority needed larger and more modern headquarters. Rather than dive into a new development, the organization decided to repurpose a neglected and soulless industrial property near the airport. The area that the building is located is devoid of foot traffic, restaurants, or scenic destinations. Our interiors team partnered with OTAK Architecture to transform this neglected tilt-up concrete building into a light-filled hub of collaboration and amenities for its occupants.
With low ceilings, minimal daylight, and little character to speak of, most would view this building as a teardown. With only a few redeemable elements, the design team set off with a mission: To make the employees the heart of this building. Their current environment forced employees to take lunch off campus and work in isolation. Employees were skeptical that this building could be transformed into a vibrant work environment. Field workers, bus drivers, and office employees would be colliding within the new headquarters, so the designers placed significant emphasis on multi-purpose collaboration zones, a variety of lunch spaces, a mix of open and private work environments, lots of natural daylight, and even a stadium stair to host all office gatherings. In the end employees’ hearts were changed when they saw the extraordinary transformation.
During a deep dive into Community Transit’s culture, goals, and needs, four design pillars for this project arose. Each pillar starting with the words, “I am” to represent the future sensations employees would experience here. “I am valued”, “I am learning”, “I am caring”, and “I am well”. These pillars are realized with design features such as a Lifetime Learning Library with scheduled lectures, an all-teams gathering stadium with a stage, and an indoor wellness & fitness center, and an outdoor terrace. Literally opening the heart of the building by cutting through the first and second floors to create the atrium, the result is a surprising contrast to the dark, neglected building it had been previously. A vast open space with clear views, an abundance of natural daylight streams in through the skylight above. Built-in planters are placed all around, the greenery ensuring a lush and living space. In the center of that space is a large stair, a culmination for gathering with stadium seating. Off to the side are elevators tucked away, made accessible, though not prominent, to encourage stair use.
We collaborated with a furniture dealer to create comfortable designs that welcome the employees and visitors of the transit hub. A variety of seating styles abound, accessible to all. Brightly colored couches, privacy booths, and chairs and tables to arrange for impromptu meetings or coffee breaks. There is a multitude of gathering areas that they didn’t even know they needed, bringing folks together for meetings or meals, resulting in a collaborative community teeming with activity.
This was a challenging project, one that has opened hearts and stimulated conversations. The foundational “I am” design pillars proved to promote wellness and belonging. It has us rethinking how we frame those conversations, and how we present our own work. We’ve helped Community Transit re-envision invaluable spaces as valuable, and through the design ushered in a new era where employees are empowered to realize they deserve a beautiful place, to be proud of and excited to come to.