Monthly archives for May, 2017

24 May, 2017 | Renovation, Workplace

KC Tech Firm Supports Rapid Growth with Flexible Work Environment

Valorem has been surpassing expectations with their rapid growth since they opened their doors in 2009. They recently completed their third headquarters expansion. A Microsoft partner, they have expanded beyond their Kansas City headquarters with offices in St. Louis, Missouri; Seattle, Washington; Kochi, India; and Herrliberg, Switzerland. With their remarkable rise, recruiting and retaining top talent is critical for this cutting-edge company.

When Helix principals Evan Fox and Alissa Wehmueller began working with Valorem, their goals were to provide room for growth and create a space that would attract top talent. They chose their building in the heart of the Crossroads, because it would help them achieve both. Our team has assisted Valorem as their headquarters has expanded three times, and the number of employees has more than tripled – all within their existing location.

Working with a rapidly growing technology company presents some unique challenges and opportunities, but like every workplace client, success is driven by thoroughly understanding and creating a space that responds to the culture, technical requirements and workstyles of the talent they want to attract.

Flexibility was a key priority from the beginning for this young company. Their workspace features an open, free-address office environment, along with a limited number of private offices. Free addressing is attractive to tech talent, but also allows the company to save on real estate expenses by housing more people in their space. By choosing a free address approach, Valorem offers employees the freedom to work wherever they would like within the space without spending money on workstations that are vacant much of the day. This provides the adaptability they need for continued growth, while getting the greatest value out of every square foot.

Throughout the building, there are a variety of spaces for collaboration, socializing and focused, quiet work that team members can choose from throughout the day. Lockers in the back allow employees to stow their coats and bags easily.  And employees are able to personalize the space. At Valorem, we added a wall for staff to write-on.

Another key component was helping them communicate and celebrate their brand while connecting to creative culture of the Crossroads Arts District. We used the Valorem logo as a jumping off place, incorporating green and blue throughout the space. One visual representation of this is a large, focal felt well, which was made by local fabricator, Hinge Woodworks. Building upon their location in the heart of Kansas City’s arts community, Valorem partnered with  local artist Phil Shafer (known as Sike Style) to paint a mural in each of their renovations. This has become a recognizable component of their workspace and were such a hit that Valorem hired Sike to do a mural in their Seattle office.

While these solutions are eye-catching and aligned with their company culture, they are also cost-effective. The felt wall pulls triple duty, offering visual interest, providing an acoustic treatment and acting as a partial room divider for workstations.

Throughout our work with Valorem, there were considerations specific to their industry and nature of their business. For example, they needed space for huge screens at workstations, and their conference rooms required substantially more technology than most. To provide a desirable work environment for developers and non-technical staff, some spaces are dark to support heavy computer work, while others have lots of bright, natural light.

When it comes to supporting a company’s growth, organizations should consider flexibility and ways incorporate their culture into their space. Valorem is evidence that a one-size fits all approach isn’t effective.

Photography by Michael Robinson.


Missouri State University Historic Renovation Merges Past and Present

For many, fall means back to school, but for Missouri State University, it also marks the beginning of construction on Hill Hall’s renovation.

At 92 years old, Hill Hall is one of the three original buildings on the campus’s historic quadrangle. Originally completed in 1924, the building carries a tremendous amount of history within its walls. Designed by President Clyde M. Hill, the Education Building is one of the most-widely copied designs in the United States.

From its early days as the Education Building to today, the exterior has stood the test of time. However, like most historic buildings, the interior environment no longer serves the university’s modern needs. Missouri State University knew they wanted a space that was flexible, reflected the building’s history, improved accessibility and created departmental adjacencies. Helix Architecture + Design was hired to assist the university with renovating this important structure.

Hill Hall is used by the College of Education and the Department of Psychology. Spaces for the multiple user groups were not adjacent to one another, but spread throughout the building, which made wayfinding and creating a true home-base for students a challenge. To ensure the renovated layout was easier to navigate, the Helix team worked with all user groups to develop a clear program for the space. They improved wayfinding throughout by increasing transparency, providing places for signage, locating core elements in the same location on each floor and improving departmental adjacencies. The new signage provided opportunities to highlight each group’s identity as well.

One of the biggest challenges that came with renovating the space was improving accessibility. The existing building did not provide a clear path for all building users, which made getting to and from class difficult. Creating an accessible route required connecting the entrances on the first floors with a series of ramps, but this key change will make the first floor area more open, connected, inviting and accessible for all visitors.

Both the School of Education and the Department of Psychology also wanted to make the building more student-centric. The existing building offered very few places for students to gather, study, relax or socialize. The Helix team was able to create a specific space for this, playfully located in an old pool that had been converted into a storage areaand was underutilized for decades. The new plans include a lounge space, computer labs and small study rooms. This space greatly enhances the building by allowing students to gather outside of the classroom to study, collaborate and better utilize technology resources.

Faculty also wanted to make their offices more welcoming and conducive to meeting with students. This meant creating places that were easier to find and more approachable. To ensure the completed space can evolve along with faculty needs, the new offices allow for growth and change, without focusing on hierarchy. Classrooms also provide flexibility for faculty to modify the rooms as pedagogy and technology continually evolves.

Preserving the historical elements of Hill Hall was important to the entire team. The original central circulation stair that connects the floors was maintained, along with the original terrazzo floors in many areas.

With construction underway, Hill Hall will offer new benefits to students and faculty just in time for the 2018 school year. Improved accessibility, the addition of social/study spaces and the reorganized layout deliver a student-centric design, while still honoring the building’s historic past.


9 May, 2017 | Helix People, Leadership, Press

Helix Adds New Talent to the Executive Team

Several years ago, the Helix executive team met to discuss what was next for the firm. They discussed a wide range of options, floating new ideas by one another. Then, big things started to happen.

The first step was announced in August of last year. We merged with the talented designers and architects at Blackbird Design Studio. We knew we were on the right track when we were named AIA Kansas City’s Firm of the Year in December. Now, we’re continuing that growth by adding a respected, local architect as a new partner.

STOCKMAN_Doug04

We’re pleased to announce Doug Stockman, a former founding principal of El Dorado, Inc., will be joining Helix. Doug brings over 23 years of design experience to the firm. Over the course of his career, he’s accumulated an expansive portfolio with work not only in Kansas City, but also throughout the Midwest.

I wanted to be part of a group comprised of thought provoking leaders and designers focused on elevating the human experience through architecture. I have known the leaders of Helix for many years and have the greatest respect for their work within the community. The decision to join Helix was easy,” said Doug Stockman, Principal, Helix.

His background and extensive portfolio complement ours. Doug has been recognized nationally by the American Institute of Architects for his design of the Girls Scouts’ Camp Prairie Schooner Trail Center. In the last decade, his work has primarily focused on mixed-use projects within the urban context. Most of which are multi-family apartments with retail and workplace as a component of the overall project. Ongoing projects nearing completion include new fabrication labs at Kansas State University’s College of Architecture, Planning and Design, as well as a new modular apartment building at 3435 Main Street in Kansas City, Missouri.

Active in the community, Doug has served on a variety of boards and committees: the Kansas City Free Health Clinic, Christmas in October, the MS Society, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and the Girl Scouts of Northeast Kansas & Northwest Missouri. Since 1999, he has also served in numerous capacities for the Kansas City Downtown Council (DTC). He currently sits on the DTC’s Executive Committee and Board of Directors as Chairman and the Dean’s Advisory Council at Kansas State University’s College of Architecture, Planning & Design. He is also a board member of Planet Play.