To convey its commitment to the environment, technical innovation, and emphasis on human resources, Dow Chemical asked Gensler to transform an existing office complex into the company's new Asia Pacific headquarters. The firm overhauled a pair of parallel L-shaped buildings in Shanghai's Zhangjiang Hi-Tech Park, using one for administrative offices and the other for research-and-development laboratories. In between, the architects redesigned a long atrium so it works as an important promenade connecting the two halves of the 100,000-square-meter headquarters. The facility also includes conference spaces, a large cafeteria, a customer innovation center, and outdoor running paths.
The primary goal of the project was to consolidate Dow's diverse business units in one place and reinforce the company's core cultural values. It brings together more than 500 engineers and scientists working on innovative solutions for the construction, transportation, energy, water, electronics and personal-care industries. More than just bringing these people together, Gensler's design enhances communication between diverse groups of Dow employees—from introverted scientists to more out-going administrators. Dow hopes that by encouraging synergy between different business groups, it can help them create products that address the market in new ways.
Gensler likens its design for the winding atrium to a river with rock deposits along its banks. To encourage interaction, the firm inserted a four-story "coffee island" in the center of the long, open space, and three activity pods. The four nodes plus various bridges crossing the atrium connect the two halves of the complex, and internal windows provide visual connections.
The architects developed a three-dimensional study model to do calculations on various sustainable design strategies, including using daylight to reduce the need for electric light fixtures. The final design brings daylight into the multistory promenade running through the center of the building and into offices and labs along the building's perimeter.
In addition to implementing green strategies, Gensler developed a Workplace Performance Index (WPI) to measure how well Dow Chemical supports its employees and fosters its corporate culture. The WPI is a web-based survey to all employees, and can be used by the company to evaluate future design changes.
According to Gensler, the project has achieved significant financial and social benefits, helping Dow Chemical demonstrate its commitment to the Asia Pacific region and bring wider visibility to its brand. And by encouraging informal communication and collaboration, it has created a popular place to work and improved employee morale.