In the early 2000s, Urban Outfitters had 600 employees spread out over numerous buildings in downtown Philadelphia. This dispersion of the team was causing problems and the decision was made to consolidate in a campus at the abandoned Navy Yards. Urban Outfitters CEO, Richard Hayne, wanted a space that reflected his company’s designs and products as well as fit the needs of the employees for space and creativity. While the renovation cost $100 million, the buildings only cost $1 to buy and much of the materials were reused and reclaimed into the 330,000 sq ft newly renovated space.
The resulting look of the new campus is one that preserves the scars and reflects the history of the Navy and its construction and repair of naval vessels. Paint was left on walls, metal was sandblasted and left to rust, reclaimed wood was used to make new staircases and windows were removed, re-glazed, and reinstalled. Most of the offices and studios are open to the warehouse and light streams in from skylights and high windows on the multi-story warehouse buildings.
The new campus enjoys lawns, a dog park (employees are allowed to bring their dogs to work), a gym, places to eat, a yoga studio, and even a farmer’s market. Julie Bargmann’s D.I.R.T. studio, who is known for transforming derelict industrial sites into happening public spaces, designed the exterior landscaping around the buildings. Pathways surrounding the campus are reminiscent of railway lines and old broken up concrete pieces were artfully repositioned into “Barney Rubble,” a sculpture in one of the plazas.
One downside of the move and renovation is that more employees do drive now than they used to to get to the headquarters, but the space has improved performance, decreased employee sick days and encourages a healthier lifestyle. The project recently received an 2010 AIA Institute Honor Award for Architecture.
Images ©Lara Swimmer