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Published: Monday, October 01, 2007

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Acumen Fund

"Our task as the architects was to develop a strategic solution to meet the present needs of Acumen without compromising Google's future ability to occupy the space with a minimum of renovation." Says Atema Architecture, on it's design for Acumen Fund.

By: Atema Architecture

Architecture-Page | Acumen Fund by Atema Architecture
View from reception into the main gallery corridor.

Project details

  • Project Name: Acumen Fund
  • Client: Acumen Fund
  • Project Type: Commercial
  • Principal Designer/s: Atema Architecture
  • Design Team: Ate Atema, Amy Campos, Ryan Bemberg, Kasia Ehrhardt, Nina Gotlieb
  • Contractor/s: Lehr Construction, Associated Fabrication, Dave Melchior Cabinetry, Product & Design
  • Date of commencement of project: September 25, 2006
  • Date of completion of project: December 15, 2006
  • Location of site: New York, NY
  • Site Area: 4300 sq ft
  • Built-up Area: 4300 sq ft
  • Cost of Construction/Execution: $950,000

Architecture-Page | Acumen Fund by Atema Architecture
Custom furniture and ceiling canopy in reception area.

Words from the designer

About Acumen Fund

Acumen Fund is a non-profit organization that builds financially sustainable organizations that elevate the lives of poor around the world; primarily through entrepreneurial approaches.

Google, a major investor, donated 4,300 sq. ft. of office space to Acumen to house their headquarters for three years.

Our task as the architects was to develop a strategic solution to meet the present needs of Acumen without compromising Google's future ability to occupy the space with a minimum of renovation.

Architecture-Page | Acumen Fund by Atema Architecture
View into conference rooms entering gallery corridor.

The Design

In order to accommodate these present and future occupancies, the design engaged Acumen in a broader discussion of sustainability, adaptability, and longevity.

We developed long-term tactics and nomadic strategies to address Acumen's needs, while respecting Google's and their budgets.

Architecture-Page | Acumen Fund by Atema Architecture
Primed, unpainted side of canopy showing reflected color heading towards reception from gallery corridor.

'Spatial flexibility' is a critical component of Acumen's working model. Many Acumen staffers regularly visit their satellite sites in Pakistan, Kenya, and India. In addition sponsored-fellows, train in New York for a portion of the year.

Two scales of personal workspace, therefore, provide for periodic temporary expansions of staff and otherwise function as overflow spaces for permanent staff.

Architecture-Page | Acumen Fund by Atema Architecture
View from the dining area into the lounge.

Floor plan showing public and gallery zones [opens in pop-up window - 99KB image]

More and less formal gathering spaces (Phone Booths, small and large Conference Rooms, the Dining Area, and Lounge/Gallery spaces) accommodate fellow mentoring, small meetings and office gatherings; maximize flexibility within tight quarters; and house various interactions taking place throughout the day.

'Designing for re-use supports a future with less waste and builds an identity that can grow with Acumen' - Key components of our strategy for future reuse were developing a set of "Nomadic Elements" and structuring the design and implementation process to both engage the client in a meaningful way, and reflect the cultures with whom they work.

Architecture-Page | Acumen Fund by Atema Architecture
Custom furniture in the dining area looking into the main workspace with colored fabric banners hanging above.

Specifically, the nomadic elements include the ceiling canopy, hanging fabric banners, specific lighting, and dining and reception area furniture, all of which can be relocated and reconfigured for Acumen's future home.

Design parameters were established that emphasized color, modularity, and reuse, and could all be assembled and installed by the architectural team.

Colors were chosen directly from photographs documenting Acumen's overseas projects.

Fabric banners provide bursts of color without requiring repainting upon vacancy. Each banner can be unhooked, separated into smaller segments, and reconfigured elsewhere.

Architecture-Page | Acumen Fund by Atema Architecture
Painting party for ceiling canopy with client, architectural team and friends.

Architecture-Page | Acumen Fund by Atema Architecture
Painted slats, assembled panels, and installed panel hanging below duct.

The ceiling canopy creates a procession from the reception through the entire office. Midway through construction, we held a client canopy painting party.

A range of seven colors were painted onto the 350 primed pieces of the canopy, creating an undulating gradient that responds to the amount of available light at any location.

Diagram, showing canopy assembly [opens in pop-up window - 99KB image]

The canopy was constructed using a simple system of five readily available parts, including cardboard tubes typically used as firework housings, zip-ties, aluminum dowels, quick release pins, and lightweight MDF.

The 100-foot canopy and the fabric banners were then assembled and installed by the architectural team.

Credits

  • Text by Atema Architecture
  • Photographs by Michael Moran, Courtesy of Atema Architecture
  • Compiled and Edited by Varun M Ajani

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