Step Inside SAP’s Academy for Engineering Designed By HGA

The design of SAP’s Academy for Engineering by HGA was developed and implemented during the pandemic and, therefore, had to be flexible and accommodating to whatever the future may hold. 

Project Overview:

  • Design Firm: HGA
  • Client: SAP
  • Completion Date: 2022
  • Location: San Ramon, CA, USA
  • Size: 56,488 sqft
  • Population: 250

Designed by HGA, the new SAP Academy for Engineering (the Engineering Academy) is a linchpin learning facility for SAP that provides enhanced capabilities for the professional development of its engineers. Located on SAP’s San Ramon, California campus at 3001 Bishop Drive, the Engineering Academy brings together talented cohorts from its offices across the globe for intensive, six-month training programs designed to develop innovators, visionaries and thought leaders that can bring new insights to the rest of the organization.

The 56,488-square-foot learning facility consists of juxtaposed coding caves, creative capsules and learning pods, supported by amenities that are purposefully positioned to introduce maximum natural light into the space. There are several versatile spaces for engineers to learn, find inspiration and be creative, and the open floor plan capitalizes on the site’s high ceilings and large windows to convey an authentic learning environment that is vibrant and modest at the same time.

Key spaces within the SAP Engineering Academy include:

  • A high-tech VR “Pop X” Room
  • A Creativity Room complete with a touch-screen table
  • A central auditorium, “The Arena”
  • A spacious café area and coffee lounge
  • A museum that puts successful innovation on display
  • Neighborhoods of flexible project rooms for teamwork
  • Coding caves for personal, more private desking space
  • An Academy Pledge Wall, where graduates take an engineer’s pledge to reinforce their role in promoting the Engineering Academy’s values across their professional community

HGA’s overarching design concept for the Engineering Academy was centered around the importance of generating a “ripple effect.” This notion came from SAP’s desire for each cohort of engineers to come to the new Engineering Academy to not only develop further expertise and learn innovative ways of thinking, but to impart this enhanced knowledge to their fellow colleagues in their own work settings.

“Be The Ripple” is the underlying message of the Engineering Academy, and every aspect of the design amplifies it. From the circular lights to the central auditorium, the subconscious message comes through: you are the ripple, you are the change agent, and your success is SAP’s collective success. In the case of The Arena, this hub-like area connects the collaborative spaces beyond in a ripple-like effect that layers in different modes of creativity to achieve an energetic makers’ space where inspiration can be found around every corner.

HGA, along with consulting partner Purple, also infused SAP’s history and core values of craftsmanship, curiosity, courage, compassion and community into the Engineering Academy’s design. Every inch of the space reflects these values—whether it’s the café with its locally sourced tiles and lakeside view, or within the subtle touches like showcasing SAP’s earliest code on the walls. The Engineering Academy seeks to celebrate SAP’s engineering pride and put the company’s profound history on display, sparking curiosity and fostering a sense of belonging. With its collection of rare books by Nobel Laureates, the museum reminds employees of SAP’s purpose and values. The central circular Arena reinforces the values of curiosity and community by placing the speaker at eye level with the audience, reminiscent of storytelling by the campfire.

Beyond the beautiful design of the space, what truly sets the Engineering Academy apart is the innovative technology integrated throughout that supports users in tangible ways. The design was developed and implemented during the pandemic and, therefore, had to be flexible and accommodating to whatever the future may hold for the SAP workplace.

Project Planning

The project team worked closely with SAP’s leadership—including V.R. Ferose, Senior Vice President and Head of the SAP Academy for Engineering—to imagine the space. HGA conducted the initial research on the workplace and project partner, Purple, became involved thereafter to help meld the physical space with the curriculum, overall cohort experience, A/V components, branding and more.

Prior to developing the design for the new Engineering Academy, the HGA team worked closely with the firm’s Design Insight Group (DIG), to better understand how SAP’s engineering workforce would be functioning within the space, with a big focus on programming and how the ripple-effect theme would best support the various usage needs of the space as a result. DIG’s early processes focused on both user experience and evidence-based outcomes to uncover any unexpected insights and translate learnings into informed design solutions for how they would use the space.

Project Details & Products

SAP branded elements include a custom check-in kiosk to support individualized interactions, reception area signage that reflects a segment of the company’s original code, lit logo signage by The Arena, the Engineering Academy pledge wall, window graphics displaying segments of code developed by first class of cohorts and wayfinding signage targeting multilingual user groups.

The overall health and wellness of all of the cohorts was an important part of the overall design of the Engineering Academy floor. It is an intense program, and to have places for relaxation and respite from the rigor of the program was important to SAP. For example, the café was designed for relaxation and meditation with the best view of the lake. Also, the Creativity Room provides a means for decompressing between sessions. The digital ping pong table within the room is actually a part of a network of devices that allows for creating immersive experiences, so its function is to help decompress while also immersed in life as an engineer. Foosball and other games have also provided that much needed break from the program.

Manufacturers of the interior finishes are:

Overall Project Results

In a rare circumstance, HGA’s National Interior Design leadership team members from across the country got to experience the space that they designed first-hand to conduct an all-day strategic planning retreat. In most cases, designers see a space through to completion, then hand it over to the end users without truly experiencing the final product in action. HGA planned the retreat around the Arena (campfire) where they focused on ideas as a collective. When they needed to brainstorm and tackle individual goals and conversations in a smaller group, they fully utilized the adjacent project pod rooms. After the small group meetings, they reconvened in the arena and collaborated as a whole once again. The actual use of the space as it was intended was better than any kind of post-occupancy survey for the team. The Engineering Academy has also let other organizations experience this project as HGA did and everyone has expressed the overall success of the space.

Project Summary

The HGA team responsible for the design of the Engineering Academy included Lisa Macaluso, principal, national interior design business development leader and the project’s lead; Susan Foong, design principal; Faith Tan, senior interior designer; Sarah Brown, project coordinator; Brent Forslin, structural engineering; and Wayne Flock, hardware specialist.

Additional project partners included Purple—the team behind elements supporting the Engineering Academy’s curriculum and user experience as well as specialty A/V and graphics—as well as Source Construction, Inc., general contractor; NV5, additional A/V; MNM Group, Low Voltage; and Triangle Sign Services, printing and installation of graphics. Furniture, fixtures and equipment were handled by CRI SF and Vitra.

Photography credit

Chad Davies

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