Design Excellence Awards

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Large Corporate Design Excellence Award
Presented to Page
Ottobock U.S. Headquarters
Austin, Texas

Project Description:

Sinuous smooth walls that curve up into floating ceiling planes against the backdrop of raw concrete joists and columns, the new corporate headquarters of Ottobock USA is a meticulously crafted expression of the duality of sculptural and tectonic architectural qualities. It is a design that treats white as a material, while embracing wellness as an intentional continuation of the company’s mission to improve the mobility of people with disabilities through innovative products.

Founded in Berlin in 1919, Ottobock moved its headquarters from Minneapolis, IN to Austin, TX and chose an entire floor, 37,000 square feet of raw office space, flooded with light, in an existing building. Ottobock hoped to capture the laid back character of its new home town while also maintaining direct ties to its German roots, celebrating its tradition of design and innovation. The design team proposed leaving the architecture of the base building in its raw state and looked to the organic forms at the foundation of Ottobock’s mission and history for inspiration: the human form of its products, the curved white facades of the Berlin office and its signature white mannequins. Flowing white surfaces became the focus.

The curved white walls occupy the center of the plan and organize the space, transforming the otherwise traditional open office concept into a sophisticated workplace that feels like an art gallery. Distinct programmatic functions (from accounting to communications and product design) are grouped strategically and situated around this core.

A deceivingly simple move, the flowing form is a rigorous engineering feat and cantilevers up to 20 feet in various areas, hiding most of the required mechanical components as well as the fire stair, showers and wellness and storage rooms. It pulls employees and visitors alike through the reception into the social hub, where amenities include various seating options/gathering spaces with a full kitchen and coffee bar. Guests can linger in a lounge and showroom; employees have a separate lounge area to the north of the social hub. Everything in the design of the walls and ceiling planes highlights the clean curved aesthetic, and it is all white. Curved walls seamlessly transition into curved glass panels. Corian and lacquered surfaces flow into one another.

These softer forms juxtapose the hard surfaces of the light grey concrete and the linear connections of its tectonic expression. The attention to detail however is consistent throughout the project. All exposed elements, light fixtures, acoustic ceiling panels and small sections of conduit, are meticulously designed and strategically placed. A raised floor used in the southeast and northwest sections of the office conceals mechanical components not already hidden in the ceiling planes. The floor is pulled away from the perimeter walls and offices providing a consistent path throughout the entire office. In keeping with the organic forms of the design, all corners are rounded.

Health is fundamental to Ottobock’s mission and the design promotes wellness with daylighting strategies and attention to indoor air quality, energy efficiency and accessibility. The entire office perimeter has windows and the few offices located on the window wall have floor-to-ceiling glazed walls, allowing natural light penetration throughout the office. Barrisol panels act as interior skylights and bring a soft light and glow into the center spaces. The resultant arc of light quality is constant natural daylight. Indoor air quality was enhanced by only using no VOC materials and easily cleanable surfaces. All fabrics are natural materials and the two wood features, the welcome wall and the pecan table, are both made of reclaimed wood. Energy efficiency is baked into the lease, which details green building requirements 10 percent more stringent that the already strict local code. Accessibility is fundamental to Ottobock’s mission and the entire office goes beyond code to embody universal design.

It was important for Ottobock to have an immediate connection to the local community. The design team worked with local artisans to design and build the 30-foot-long social hub pecan table and the welcome wall in the showroom. A vibrant green and a muted sky blue complement the predominately white and grey finishes and materials. Fabrics, like the curved walls, provide softer surfaces and lines: Acoustic drapes allow for separation of conference rooms and light blue and salmon-colored seating areas with high, padded fabric fin elements offer quiet moments of repose.

The Ottobock office attains an expression of timelessness; it is a sculpture that celebrates movement and connections.