RTKL Associates’ new 60,000-sq.-ft. Washington, D.C., office—seeking LEED-Platinum certification—is an example of next-generation sustainable corporate interiors. RTKL’s goal was to create a workplace that reflects its collaborative culture and commitment to environmental stewardship.
The design team began with an extensive immersion process to understand its company culture and work processes. From this process, five core types of functional spaces or “activity zones” emerged: Greet, Seat, Meet, Eat, and Retreat. Environmental graphics were developed to complement and reinforce these spaces and themes.
EGD elements celebrate teaming and partnerships by incorporating all forms of media (from signage and digital animation to printed collateral material and large-scale wall graphics) and by demonstrating a collaborative process among designers of various disciplines and services (graphics, lighting, environmental media, interiors, etc.).
Graphics were inspired by the concept of “done by hand.” The team wanted to create a look and feel that showed personality and process—a personal touch that one would expect to find in a creative environment prior to the advent of computers. Almost sketch-like, the graphic content throughout the space is light-hearted and playful, including illustrative wayfinding and back-of-house signs and fun bathroom mirror graphics that illustrate proper hand-washing techniques.
A major challenge was researching and specifying materials that are sustainable or include sustainable elements, while also being durable and fitting within the project budget. The team saw this as a unique opportunity to discover new materials, new application techniques, and new technologies.
Environmentally preferable materials used in the EGD elements include sustainable adhesives for the wall coverings, low-VOC finishes for wall plaques and overhead signing, substrates and materials for large-scale graphics, collateral materials such as personal metal water canteens to reduce waste, low-energy digital rotating bulletin board announcements to convey office-wide accomplishments and information, as well as magnetic bulletin boards to reduce office paper distribution and consumption. Recycling signs promote responsible trash separation and disposal of recyclable material.
Throughout the space, technology is celebrated via the use of projection animations, monitors with rotating images that perpetuate the firm’s core services and values. Large-scale graphics applied to conference room glass walls promote privacy and visibility. In the entrance foyer, identity signage promotes low-energy use, company pride, and brand identity: a superscaled version of the stenciled RTKL wordmark is rendered via a translucent resin wall backlit by color-changing LEDs.
“In a moment when digital media has come to replace the hand drawing that typified architecture in the past, these designers found a way to combine a very contemporary color and visual sensibility with the judicious use of witty, hand-drawn iconography, with great success. A balanced blend of left brain and right brain—evident in all good design—is here and available to all visitors, clients, and the employees themselves.”
Environmental Graphic Design
Thom McKay (vice president in charge); Frank Christian (design manager); Greg Riestenberg, Steven Norris, John Newton (designers); Anne Chan (photographer)
Interior Architecture and Design
Kim Heartwell (vice president in charge); Neal Hudson (senior designer); Irwin Gueco, Kate Tichauer, Corcoran Canfield (designers)
Special Systems Design Group
Darren Vican (vice president in charge); Clinton Khoury (construction manager); Brian Brustad (senior designer); Daniel Zimnoch, Michael Colburn, Paxson Laird (designers)
Melvin Saunders, Jason Litt
Gable Signs (environmental graphics), Hitt Contracting Inc. (general contractor)