2013 Market Winner: NNSA National Security Campus by HNTB Architecture

As the winners of the 2013 Design is … Award Market Award, Shaw Contract Group winning firms interviewed as part of a section of Shaw Contract Group blog which will last a year. Throughout the year, readers can learn more about the 48 winning projects and the individuals who perform them. These are their stories.

Wes Crosby, Director of Design & Interior Architecture, Lori Kruger, Senior Interior Designer, and Katie Moorman, Interior Designer talk to us about molecular structures, collective genius and designing spaces for ‘unique contraptions.’

Your design inspiration came from the structure of atoms and molecules. Tell me more about that.
The major form making elements of the interior architecture draw their inspiration from graphic models commonly used by scientists to visualize their work. “The construction and use of representational models is a central activity in the formulation of chemical theory. Such models make visible the invisible world of the atom and molecule; they give them a graphic clarity. The means of producing this has taken two major forms – physical and symbolic.” The design team abstracted and gave three dimensional form to these graphic representation models. For example, the ceilings in the open office area, inspired by Dr. van’t Hoff’s templates for unfolded tetrahedra, and reinforced with diagonally oriented lighting, help modulate and break down the vast open office areas.

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Typically when government buildings come to mind, most people think of drab and gray spaces. What was your process in creating a space with a more elevated design than the average government building?
The design team endeavored to create a workplace strategy that would replace the NNSA’s outmoded office space. The design sought to create a clean, white box aesthetic that provides a crisp backdrop to walnut paneling and strategically placed color in the interior architecture and furnishings. The resulting design establishes a workplace that celebrates the organization’s collective genius.

What was the happiest moment of the project?
Seeing the pride the client has taken in the project. This environment is a dramatic departure from their previous space. It greatly exceeded their expectations of what a work environment could be. When we told them about the award one of our clients said, “well deserved . . . and we get to live here!”

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Tell me something that was unusual about the project.
We never thought we’d be incorporating zoo-like turnstiles into an interior as a major entry element to the secure pods/ open office areas. Doing that in a design conscious manner proved to be a bit of a challenge. There were more unusual things in the manufacturing spaces, specifically “the sled”. A machine designed to accelerate objects to super high speeds and decelerate them just as quickly. It is supposed to replicate the forces objects experience when leaving and entering earth’s atmosphere. The crazy thing is not that we were designing spaces for contraptions like this one. The crazy thing was that we were designing spaces for thousands of different contraptions like that one.

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