Wisconsin Vision Associates, Burlington, Wisconsin
A growing distributor of contact lenses tapped Abacus Architects to design a new national headquarters and warehouse/distribution center. The facility would be home to some 200 employees, stock about 98 percent of all contact lenses available, and receive three to four semi-tractor trailer deliveries daily. In addition to meeting the needs of the business, the owners wanted the building to provide a high quality of life for their workers.
The completed office and distribution center is set into the side of a semi-rural, hilly and foliage covered site. A winding drive leads to the building, which is not visible from the street. Abacus chose a rustic, contemporary design approach to fit the large size of the building comfortably into the landscape, while still maintaining a human scale for the occupants. The main entrance is located off-center to break up the building’s long façade. A combination of golden-tone Brazilian Garapa wood, a custom natural stone blend and colored pre-cast concrete panels give the facility a more approachable appearance than would be expected of a sizable warehouse.
Abacus employed the same strategy of balancing natural and man-made materials to achieve a rustic but contemporary look on the inside as well. A large stone fireplace lends a cozy and informal air to a collaboration area, one of several. Clerestory and transom windows bring in natural light throughout the facility. The open office plan includes expansive shared space, an abundance of breakout and gathering places for meetings, a warming kitchen, and a coffee bar reminiscent of a neighborhood cafe. To keep the interior uncluttered, the architects integrated IT and power outlets into the floors, which have radiant heating. The building also has a large deck and patio areas that allow for working outdoors when weather permits. Taking full advantage of the site, many office windows look out over wetlands on the property.
“The company owners did not want a cold, faceless distribution center. We made it look rustic and clean and contemporary at the same time to create a place where workers are happy to be.” –Eric Halbur, Project Designer and Manager