Amenta Emma Architects Transformed This Space From Bus Station To Workplace

This renovated space by Amenta Emma Architects in a 1950s bus station will transport Connecticut Innovations into the future. 

With Connecticut Innovations’ work café in the foreground, a NanaWall is in the process of being retracted to open the adjoining boardroom. Credit: Robert Benson Photography | Amenta Emma Architects

Connecticut Innovations enables technology start-ups—including life sciences companies engaged in COVID-19 research—to launch and grow. Located in New Haven, Connecticut, their new 9,000-square-foot headquarters designed by Amenta Emma Architects utilizes glass and roofed “boxes” within a larger envelope to create an open, light-filled environment, with spaces for events, small-team collaborations and distancing.

Exposed structure, HVAC, brickwork, metal panel ornamentation, and concrete floor staining are contextual with original architecture and provide an edgy industrial aesthetic. At the main entrance, a floor-to-ceiling engraved feature wall houses a screen that allows Connecticut Innovations to showcase its own brand and promote portfolio companies and investor partners.

Designers maximized existing features, which included high ceilings, skylights and a long southern-facing glazed wall, bathing the interior in light. Use of glass throughout the headquarters and along a central corridor, or “main street,” defines program spaces and allows glimpses of activity. A particular highlight is a large conference room adjacent to the café-lounge. The boardroom’s large sliding glass NanaWall opens to unite the spaces to allow for larger meetings or events.

The space before renovations began

While the project was designed pre-COVID-19, small offices line the perimeter of the interior, creating a high-ceiling, open environment along with private work spaces. Interior furnishings complement Connecticut Innovations’ brand colors of blue and orange. Countertops and table surfaces are light, bright and easy to clean.

One challenge of repurposing an old bus station included devising ways to incorporate electrical conduits and drains, since the ground slab, which had been encapsulated because of environmental concerns, could not be penetrated. Careful planning was needed to minimize disturbance of the floor slab, while also grouping exposed piping in a visually pleasing manner. Polishing the concrete floor, in addition to utilizing existing exposed structure in the ceiling, contributed to the sustainability of the project as well. Connecticut Innovations’ headquarters is one of several organizations in District New Haven, a sprawling 105,000-square-foot building in the Elm City.

Amenta Emma simultaneously designed an additional office for Connecticut Innovations in the historic Colt Building in Hartford, which maintains aesthetic continuity with the organization’s headquarters while capitalizing on particular features of the Hartford location such as natural light and exposed brick.

Designers maximized existing features, which included high ceilings, skylights in their original positions, and a long south glazed wall, bathing the interior in light. Credit: Robert Benson Photography | Amenta Emma Architects

When was the project completed? 

The project was completed in the summer of 2020.

How many SF per person?

263 sf per workstation

62 sf per person at occupant load

How many employees work here?

There are 38 workstations. Occupant load is 143 for events.

What is the average daily population?

Due to COVID-19, there are currently only about 2-10 employees on site per day.

Describe the work space type.

There is a mix of enclosed offices, open-plan workstations, small collaboration spaces that can also be used for individual work, and flexible spaces that can be used for eating, working or gathering.

Creation of glass and roofed “boxes” within the larger envelope contribute to the open, light-filled environment, giving employees additional collaborative and huddle spaces. Credit: Robert Benson Photography | Amenta Emma Architects

What kind of meeting spaces are provided?

There is a wide range of meeting spaces in this workplace. The board room opens into the break area to create an event space, but can also be fully enclosed for private meetings. There are open collaboration spaces, conference rooms and a work café where employees can sit privately or hold a meeting with four to six people.

What other kinds of support or amenity spaces are provided?

The workplace includes a wellness room, phone booths and a work café. The work café has a mix of seating options including a farm table as well as small tables with both soft and hard seating.

What is the project’s location and proximity to public transportation and/or other amenities?

One of the strongest attributes of our new headquarters is its location, which is close to railways and includes highly coveted private parking. CI’s new headquarters is housed within District New Haven, a comprehensive ecosystem designed to support and inspire people and businesses at every stage. It has a full-scale restaurant on its campus, as well as a state-of-the-art fitness center. It is minutes from downtown New Haven and has easy access to major highways.

The space was designed pre-COVID and completed and occupied during the pandemic. There were several design choices that turned out to be incredibly fortunate and avoided the need for retrofitting to adapt to COVID-19. Wide walkways allow employees to keep distance. The collaboration areas located adjacent to the walkways along with the large board room and adjoining work café can accommodate a great deal of distance between meeting participants. Private offices along the edges of the space enable individuals to close the door behind them and take their mask off. And the surfaces utilized in the design are smooth, bright and very suited to an increased sanitizing regimen.

An ever-changing monitor, mounted on a floor-to-ceiling engraved feature wall at the main entrance, allows Connecticut Innovations to showcase its own brand and promote tech partners. Credit: Robert Benson Photography | Amenta Emma Architects

Was the C-suite involved in the project planning and design process? If so, how?

Connecticut Innovation’s CFO and CIO/Executive Vice President were involved in the entire design and planning process. They were at every meeting. The CEO was brought in at design landmarks for key decisions. The C-suite executives were instrumental in communicating the unique needs of the organization and helping to identify unusual design opportunities for the space. For example, Connecticut Innovations traditionally held a large event twice a year for which they would rent a hotel ballroom. The executive team was able to determine that the cost of installing a NanaWall to connect the boardroom to the work café was offset by not having to rent a ballroom in the future.

What kind of programming or visioning activities were used to create the space?

Amenta Emma Architects created inspirational images after meeting with Connecticut Innovations and then reviewed them together for feedback. This process helped us understand what they envisioned for each feature of the space and the final look they hoped to achieve. At our programming meetings, the functions of the space were run through and organized into a document that assigned square footage for each function so that all needs were accounted for.

Were any pre-planning surveys conducted to get employee input?

During the planning process, Amenta Emma Architects polled staff on building requirements as well as wish-list items. The poll asked for preferences regarding open work environments versus private offices, common work spaces, internet and other office capabilities.

Were there any other kinds of employee engagement activities?

Since employees cannot be under one roof, updates were shared through photos, videos and other communication. Employee engagement activities are still hosted that would typically be in person, like remote yoga classes, trivia and stretching and meditation sessions.

Were any change management initiatives employed?

For the project, Amenta Emma Architects did not enlist the help of an outside organization to handle change management. Rather, they identified key members of the Connecticut Innovations team to handle various aspects of the build and move. Key members of the executive team, including HR, IT, operations and marketing handled the build-out, while marketing handled internal and external communications.

A particular highlight is a large conference room adjacent to the café-lounge. The large sliding glass wall opens to unite the spaces to allow for larger meetings or events. Credit: Robert Benson Photography | Amenta Emma Architects

Please describe any program requirements that were unique or required any special research or design requirements.

The NanaWall connecting the board room and work café required special care, especially because Connecticut Innovations selected the frameless NanaWall option that is simply floor-to-ceiling glass for its overall aesthetic. Typically, the frameless NanaWall requires floor supports extending six inches below finished floor. The site has a very thin concrete slab, followed by a vapor barrier, and another slab. Only two and a half inches could be punctured into the first slab before it would risk breaching the vapor barrier which would create a myriad of problems for the building such as moisture and environmental concerns. Instead, a sliding system was configured that could work with existing conditions of the slab and meet the structural requirements of the NanaWall system.

Due to the depth of the building and the main source of natural light located on one end of the space, the existing skylights were important to utilize for additional daylighting. Special planning was necessary to coordinate circulation, open and enclosed spaces so that the existing skylights could be utilized effectively.

Was there any emphasis or requirements on programming for health and wellbeing initiatives for employees?

Because the space is essentially a long rectangle, open workstations are located near the natural light and views to the exterior, with a biophilic connection to greenery visible through the windows. Interior glass walls were used to draw light into the enclosed offices and conference rooms and create a sense of openness. Biophilic plants are used throughout the space.

Were there any special or unusual construction materials or techniques employed in the project?

In addition to the NanaWall, geometric metal panels wrap the boardroom and conference rooms. The space has an open ceiling which exposes large, existing trusses. The metal panels serve to have a dialogue with the triangular shape of the exposed trusses and tie that design vocabulary throughout the space.

What products or service solutions are making the biggest impact in your space?

Furniture solutions making an impact to the space include YouToo task chairs at the workstations (for ergonomic purposes) and training tables from Halcon that are used in the boardroom. Individual tables were used (rather than one large table) in the boardroom to allow for flexibility. Halcon’s training tables work very well because they look sophisticated when ganged together, but separate and flip up to be easily reconfigured. They also incorporate power seamlessly, so they function in any arrangement. In addition, the space includes adjustable workstation desks from Haworth.

The boardroom at Connecticut Innovations, as well as other areas in the workplace, includes screens that can be customized to promote portfolio companies of the venture capital organization. Credit: Robert Benson Photography | Amenta Emma Architects

What kind of branding elements were incorporated into the design?

A large backlit Connecticut Innovations logo greets visitors as they enter the space. The Connecticut Innovations brand is reflected in colors on furniture, pillows and wall panels throughout the space. The exposed trusses and metal panels that mirror them also express Connecticut Innovations’ role in building technology and science companies. In addition to capturing the brand of Connecticut Innovations, monitors throughout the space can be configured to promote the brands of portfolio companies when they visit the space or host meetings.

What is the most unique feature of the space?

The board room and work café that are separated by a glass retractable NanaWall is the most unique feature of the space. The configuration allows for an extremely open environment at the heart of the space, or a more traditional, enclosed meeting space. It can be reconfigured between the two options in under a minute.

Are there any furnishings or spaces specifically included to promote wellness/wellbeing?

The wellness room provides a space to accommodate parents who may have needs related to breastfeeding as well as a comfortable space for anyone who needs to regroup in private to manage a headache, stress or other needs. The open collaboration spaces and work café give employees a choice of where they are most comfortable working or holding small meetings.

Use of glass throughout the headquarters and along a central corridor, or “main street,” defines program spaces and allows glimpses of activity. Credit: Robert Benson Photography | Amenta Emma Architects

What kinds of technology products were used?

Here is a complete rundown of technology in the space:

Board Room

Two Large Conference Rooms

  • 65” LG UT640S Series UHD Commercial Signage TV
  • Logitech Tap Teams System-incl camera, speaker and mic
  • AirMedia for Wireless Content Sharing

Two Huddle Spaces

  • 65” LG UT640S Series UHD Commercial Signage TV
  • AirMedia for Wireless Content Sharing

Lobby

  • Two 86” LG 86UM3E UHD Displays
  • Brightsign Controller- Connected to AppSpace/SeenSpire for Displaying signage and social media content

Café

  • Two 55” LG 55UT640S0UA UHD Commercial Signage TV
  • Two Brightsign Controllers- Connected to AppSpace/SeenSpire for displaying signage and social media content
  • 4 Community Professional PHK-30 Ceiling mounted Pendant Speakers
  • Feed from BoardRoom for Video/Audio

If the company relocated to a new space, what was the most difficult aspect of the change for the employees?

Timing was incredibly fortuitous for the move. Connecticut Innovations had essentially moved out of its previous office when the need to switch to remote work due to the pandemic became apparent. This period of time provided an opportunity to complete every detail of the new office and allowed employees to move in gradually. The office still has not been fully occupied. Any difficulty adjusting to the new office will likely be tempered by the fact that once the office is fully occupied, employees will be returning from a year or more of primarily working from home.

Geometric metal panels serve to have a dialogue with the triangular shape of the exposed trusses and tie that design vocabulary throughout the space. Credit: Robert Benson Photography | Amenta Emma Architects

Who else contributed significantly to this project?

Team

Materials

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