Pulte Group headquarters: 10 questions

The nation's largest home builder is ready to mingle at its new Atlanta digs

We asked VOA Associate Principal Pablo Quintana about new workplace headquarters for Pulte Group designed by VOA.

Pulte Group was moving from suburban Detroit to uptown Atlanta. Did certain issues with Pulte’s previous HQ influence the design for the new workplace?
Pablo Quintana: Pulte’s previous headquarters in suburban Detroit was an expansive two-floor work environment that offered little evidence of the company’s brand and culture. Staff had grown separated and isolated from one another by the sheer size and disposition of the facility. The predominantly open workplace was highlighted by high panel workstations and closed offices and offered few options for staff meetings and collaboration. There were few planned opportunities to bring staff together and a general sense that the environment was not conducive for collaboration.

What did Pulte tell us about what it wanted in a new HQ?
Pulte’s CEO Richard Dugas wanted one thing above all; a sophisticated, light and airy space where his staff could easily work together. CFO Jim Ellinghausen echoed Richard’s desires and added that the space needed to live up to the company’s stature as “the nation’s largest home developer.” Both agreed that Pulte’s Detroit headquarters felt old and antiquated, and did little to represent the company’s brand. They told us that there were too many offices and people who wanted to hide in them in the previous space. A decision was made early on to only provide private offices for director-and-above-level staff only. This led to a more open floor plan.

What types of work styles is the space designed for? What are some of the features we designed to accommodate these work styles?
The new space is designed for collaboration. You could say the design is “ready-to-mingle.” The workstations are smaller in size and arranged in pairs, allowing staff to easily team with one another at their own workspace. Perimeter offices have fully glazed fronts, bringing light and views deep into the space while maintaining visibility and openness at all levels of the company. As in most open environments, there are many options for staff to meet. Meeting spaces vary in size, function, layout, and technology features. Open teaming areas, designed as “living rooms” complete with stone walls and residential-style furniture, occupy key spaces along the perimeter window wall. Above all, the design emphasizes variety, allowing staff to pick the right size environment to meet and collaborate.

What kind of amenities does Pulte have? Why are these important in a 2015 workplace?
Pulte selected its new headquarters building in part because it provided some significant amenities, including two large outdoor terraces on floors 15 and 17, and several balconies throughout the floors. These outdoor spaces serve as destination points for staff and visitors and became key features in the design. The 15th floor terrace became the main amenity of the project. Furnished with outdoor lounge seating, umbrellas and family style tables, it is conceived as an outdoor “oasis.” Indoors, next to the terrace, is the Pulte Kitchen, a large cafe area modeled after one of the Pulte brand styles. Decidedly residential in feel, the Pulte Kitchen area features a bar, dining areas, living room areas and a breakfast nook. Residential styling aside, the Pulte Kitchen area, and adjoining outdoor terrace, are places for staff to collide, meet, relax and enjoy the workplace. These spaces go beyond their intended use and help define the culture.

Why use a staircase? Don’t people expect to use elevators in a five-level office building?
Stairs are architectural wonders, they serve as people movers, vertical connectors, and sculptural objects. The five-story open stair at Pulte Headquarters is no different. It is an elegant promenade connecting all floors, placed directly across from the elevators, challenging the staff to walk rather than stand

What kind of materials did we use and how do they reflect Pulte’s identity?
Materiality was very important to the client. They wanted a palette of light and airy, yet sophisticated and upscale materials. The space needed to feel grand and open, clean and mature. Dominated by the glass walls of the offices, the space feels open and airy. Oak wood is used as an accent in both furniture and doors, a counterpoint to the transparency of glass. Hard surface flooring materials differentiate the common areas from the work spaces. Carpet tones are used to separate offices and conference rooms from work stations areas. In general, the finishes provide a calm, elegant feel to the space and make a rather large office feel intimate and personal.

How is this HQ a great place for Pulte to meet with clients/partners?
The new headquarters is the extension of the Pulte brand. It helps tell the story of the company’s maturity and sophisticated approach to home building. It creates a work community in the same way Pulte creates neighborhoods and communities across the US. It is symbolic of work as an extension of living. 

The “boxes” on the wall remind me of Piet Mondrian. What was the inspiration for these?
The five-story wall flanking the stair was designed as a “wall of windows.” Many of the windows show pictures of Pulte properties, a kind of visual showcase of the company’s brands that animates the vertical movement of the stair. 

How would describe the overall feel of the new Pulte workplace in one word?

In three words?
Sophisticated. Transparent. Mature.

Size: 107,000 SF
Team: John Jessen, Pablo Quintana, Chris Turner, Dick Brown, Chris Pilla, Justin Do, Ji Min Kim, Kala Fagan, Kate Egan

Photography: Ron Blunt

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