Madison is like many college towns. People come to study and then stay to work for the research driven entrepreneurial businesses are in turn changing the face of the city.
Beginning in 1995, we worked for Urban Land Interests to develop office environments for these businesses. In 2011, Urban Land posed an interesting question, “we know what these people want in a work environment, but what do they want in a living environment?”
We set out to develop the profile for the home of knowledge worker from the businesses that were driving growth and change in the city. It began by visiting both mature companies and start-ups, in a broad range of service, software and hardware businesses.
No surprise, these people worked 24 X 7, but they also played 24 X 7. Where the workplace had to allow people to de-compress, the living environment had to facilitate work. It also had to offer a wide range of amenities that could be used by the community and to experience the pleasure of just being alone.
From interviews it also became clear that the need to for personal space varied dramatically. For some a 500 sf one bedroom apartment where you showed up with your clothes and your media, and you were done was ideal. For others they wanted a large unit to share with their friends. There are 25 different plans for the 117 units. We discovered that these people ran in groups, often renting apartments in the same building as co-workers.
Our intent was to make the building a destination, to make people passionate about living in this place. In a post occupancy survey, we discovered 40% of the residents work for the same software company.
The architecture began as a simple “U” shaped plan, composed of brick walls and square punched openings, taking cues for the adjacent historic Tobacco Lofts built in the 1890’s. Layered on top of this simple base were a series of rotated ribbon forms each “focused” on distant landmarks such as the state capital or other landmarks across Lake Monona.
We understood these people are invested in the city and committed to life out of doors. The juxtaposition of the brick matrix, the metal sided forms and the glassy pavilions is ambiguous, until the building is experienced in person, then the meaning of the form is understood to align with the way people think about their city.