Creativity and Collaboration in a Revitalized Motor City

The new Lowe Campbell Ewald office in Detroit was among the most compelling submissions for our 2014 Work Design NOW series, sponsored by Haworth. The top three — announced here — will be profiled in depth in the coming months, but we also want to show off the finalists in short project profiles like the one that follows. Stay tuned for more!

Photo courtesy of Lowe Campbell Ewald.

Lowe Campbell Ewald, an advertising and communications company, recently moved from their office in Warren, Mich. to a newly renovated office in downtown Detroit. The 122,000 square foot, $15 million project was completed in January of 2014 in partnership with Michigan architecture and design firm Neumann/Smith.

Lowe Campbell Ewald was started in Detroit in 1911, so the move was partially inspired by a desire to revitalize the city Lowe Campbell Ewald once called home. The new office, a revamped warehouse dating back to the 1920s, is strategically located in the Ford Field complex. According to Jennifer Huebel, marketing manager at Neumann/Smith, the office “fills a geographical gap between large employers in the Central Business District, and anchor institutions in Midtown,” providing more business to the sports and entertainment district.

Photo courtesy of Lowe Campbell Ewald.
Photo courtesy of Lowe Campbell Ewald.

In part, the renovation focused on unveiling the underlying structure and history of the space, a warehouse which had been vacant for upwards of 70 years. Said Huebel, “It was important to LCE and to Neumann/Smith to preserve what already existed within the structure. A contract from ten years ago had demolished the previous layout back to the original “bones.” You could see the opportunity in the space.

Huebel added that Lowe Campbell Ewald’s decision to inhabit an older building “breathed new life into a nearly 100 year-old structure… It also shines light on the importance of preserving historical architecture, and the creative possibilities of adaptive reuse for the [Detroit’s] redevelopment.” Many abandoned buildings exist in the city, and Lowe Campbell Ewald hopes their office will serve as an example of the possibilities for these spaces.

Photo courtesy of Lowe Campbell Ewald.
Photo courtesy of Lowe Campbell Ewald.

Lowe Campbell Ewald and Neumann/Smith went to great lengths to preserve the historic architecture. The original cement floors were ground and polished, and steel structural elements on the upper levels were sandblasted and painted to reveal their original industrial feel. All electrical and ventilation systems are also in plain view, in keeping with LCE’s desire to “embrace the ugly”.

This desire is also revealed in LCE’s creative use of recycled materials for partition pods and room dividers. LCE went to great lengths to reduce their environmental impact, using reclaimed wood for barn doors and stair treading, lighting conference rooms with burnt-out fluorescent tubes retrofitted with LEDs, and fitting the space with eco-friendly carpeting.

The new office encourages collaboration and creativity. Lowe Campbell Ewald is an open office organized by a benching system, and as such it was crucial to provide plenty of space for collaboration, as well as vary the size, shape, and function of those spaces.

This most innovative step Lowe Campbell Ewald took towards this goal was the creation of their Ideation space, which functions as a formal meeting area, lounge, and the firm’s library. “The ideation space was created to give employees a very open and flexible place,” said Huebel.

Photo courtesy of Lowe Campbell Ewald.
Photo courtesy of Lowe Campbell Ewald.

The Ideation space is centrally located and features plenty of seating, as well as two “treehouses”, plywood structures suspended over the space to give employees a quiet place to talk or simply think. If employees crave peace and quiet, they can climb a ship’s ladder up to the scaffolding and nestle in a private corner of the treehouse. The sides of the structure are arranged in slats very similar to window blinds, and as a result, an employee in the treehouse can view the scene below her while remaining in complete privacy.

So far, the space has been a success, bringing a competitive advantage to both the company and the surrounding city. “Lowe Campbell Ewald is a creative company, and this inspirational space is now in tune with their brand,” said Huebel. “Their employees communicate and thrive in a space that lends itself to creativity.”

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