Variations on a Scheme: Fumihiko Maki transports his strategy for an earlier Novartis project in Basel to a spacious suburban landscape.
Architects & Firms
East Hanover, New Jersey
Occupying a site that borders the southeastern edge of the campus, Building 345 by Maki and Associates reflects the pragmatic nature of the pharmaceutical corporation's primary business with a clean, minimalist materiality. A subtle striped facade made of four varieties of glass— a deliberate move to protect its occupants from the sun's glare—might seem rigid and austere beside its more flamboyant neighbors designed by Weiss/Manfredi, Rafael Viñoly, and Vittorio Lampugnani. Yet within the pristine cladding, the architects crafted a warm interior that embraces the landscape—both literally and figuratively.
The suburban-U.S. location required a much larger building than the Swiss project, however—a footprint, at 99 by 335 feet, four times the size. The goal, says Maki's international projects director Gary Kamemoto, was to create flexible offices for about 440 employees of the company's global oncology group, as well as two company-wide amenities: a conference center and an Asian bistro. The challenge, he adds, was to respond to the client's request for an unobstructed, free-flowing work environment in such a large area.
The architects collaborated with New York–based structural engineer Leslie E. Robertson Associates to devise a six-story, 183,000-square-foot, post-tensioned-concrete structure with no perimeter columns. The resulting slabs cantilever 30 feet from the outermost columns, which allows the occupants unimpeded panoramas of the parklike surroundings. Four offset cores arranged in pairs on diagonal axes—two are at the center and the others are on opposite elevations—anchor the building and provide the necessary openness throughout the rectilinear floor plate.
“Among the plan's key concepts are spaces we call 'community parks,' ” says Kamemoto, explaining that the architects based their model on Lampugnani's master plan for the campus, which will eventually have three distinct “villages” of office buildings encircling a central park. Similarly, rising from the southern half of the ground floor inside, these double-height communal areas are surrounded by L-shaped “neighborhoods” of open-plan workstations where Novartis project teams work in units of 10 to 20 people. Adjacent to the cores, the “community parks” include café-like seating, an island pantry, and internal stairs that link the floors, as in Basel, for staff collaboration and physical activity.
In section, the north and south halves of the second through fifth floors are identical in plan, though a raised floor—with pressurized in-floor heating and cooling systems that have moveable vents—frees management to rearrange the modular workstations as needed. Outfitted with grassy green carpeting, maple, and “teakwood”-stone surfaces, and cane accent furnishings—to further the outdoor theme— each side has its own community park, three neighborhoods, and a series of private spaces, including glazed conference rooms and acoustically insulated bubblelike enclaves for personal calls and small groups. The second set of cores houses egress stairs and lavatories, both faced with a milky glass block on the exterior wall to brighten such typically dark zones.
As in Maki's building for the Swiss campus, the curtain wall maximizes daylight and dissolves the boundary between indoors and out. “When we first visited the site, we were impressed with the abundant growth of 70-foot oak trees at the south end of the campus,” says Kamemoto. Striving to integrate this landscape into the building, the architects hung 14-foot-wide double-glazed panels from the roof to minimize the use of mullions. These are layered in ribbons of crystallized (white), low-iron (clear), and 45-percent ceramic-frit glass above the first floor for solar protection and energy savings. The glass block interrupts the ribbon pattern, as do expanses of vertical glass panels— shielded by aluminum louvers on the building's southwest side—that line the “community parks” on the upper floors.
Maki's meticulous attention to detail continues at the ground level, where a tall base of transparent glass appears to lift the building and connects Michael Van Valkenburgh's undulating landscape with the offices and public areas inside: a bento box–inspired Asian bistro, Venetian-plaster-coated conference facilities, and an elegant lobby that slices across the building to ease access from either side.
Expanding on many of the thoughtful design tactics the firm developed for its Novartis project in Basel, Maki and Associates brings a keen sense of place and a grand scale to the company's evolving New Jersey campus—and nothing gets lost in translation.
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183,000 square feet