HDR Arlington Design Studio

HDR Chicago office

HDR Arlington Design Studio

Pathways and Destinations Foster Team Connections

Defining a design culture can be a challenging feat, especially when the physical environment doesn’t speak the same language as the people who use it. Such was the predicament facing a 150-person architecture office located in historic Alexandria. The compartmentalised style of the workplace didn’t align with the innovative spirit and collaborative process embraced by the staff. That changed in February 2016 when the practice relocated seven miles north to the Clarendon neighbourhood of Arlington. The new studio is an architectural exploration as much as it is a workplace. It demonstrates how the built environment can be a powerful tool to create identity and rebrand an office culture.

This two-level collaborative environment is designed to promote transparency, light and interconnected space. It is located in the heart of a transit-oriented community. Conceptually, the layout draws inspiration from the L’Enfant Plan in the way it expresses pathways (diagonal circulation inserted within a regular grid) and destinations (focal points at the terminus of primary pathways), while creating layered vistas between spatial landmarks.

Notable design features include:

  • The interior space is organised around an open stair that physically and visually connects the two floors, while fostering spontaneous interaction and discovery. The stair links four staff neighbourhoods, two on each level, and descends into a central library.
  • Each neighbourhood adjoins shared collaboration spaces, meeting rooms, technology stations and phone booths with a centralized library and café. Occupants choose the working environment that best suits their tasks each day.
  • The material palette reinforces the planning concept and contributes to the sustainable goals. Sealed concrete floors and exposed ceilings articulate circulation zones, while floating ceiling planes and floor treatments delineate the occupied areas.
  • Clear glass partitions transmit borrowed light into the core spaces and celebrate the daily design process. Accents of colour and walnut wood provide visual warmth.

Enhanced commissioning was conducted to ensure that all systems are performing according to specifications. Findings collected from a post-occupancy evaluation after six months found that the studio occupants are experiencing an increase in team productivity, task efficiency and job satisfaction. The design has also been credited with improving staff recruitment and business development.

HDR Chicago office

Arlington, VA
United States

28,000 SF (2,601 m²)
Fitwel 3 Star Rating
LEED Certified Platinum


Illumination Awards, Merit Award (2018)
Illuminating Engineering Society, Philadelphia Section