With a mission to eliminate underlying causes of health inequities, transform systems and enable individuals and communities to thrive, Missouri Foundation for Health positively impacts communities across the state. Approaching the end of its lease in a previous location, the foundation selected HOK to design its new workplace closer to the partners it serves. The space needed to align with the organization’s core values of equity, integrity, humility and commitment.
Completed in 2022, the foundation’s new LEED-certified headquarters in St. Louis brings new life to buildings lost to time and provides a homebase for work happening to help build a more equitable future in Missouri.
REIMAGINING THE SITE
The design team worked with Missouri Foundation for Health to find a site that would allow the organization to grow and offer easy access to partners. The corner site in the centrally located and vibrant Forest Park Southeast neighborhood of St. Louis included a 30,000-square-foot abandoned ironworks building and two residential flats. Starting with dirt floors, debris and crumbling interior walls, HOK renewed the 2.6-acre site into a modern, healthy and resilient workplace that supports the foundation’s goals.
“The space was in rough condition, but the leaders of the foundation trusted us and were willing to go down this path with us,” explains Margaret McDonald, senior principal at HOK. “It was really a top-down approach to get all staff excited about creating the new campus and moving into one of the communities that Missouri Foundation for Health serves.”
Through surveys, one-on-one interviews and workshops, the design team helped the foundation establish its vision for the workplace and prioritize its needs. Foundation employees participated in 12 workshops on topics, ranging from joint-use programming to materials and landscaping, throughout the design process.
Overall, employees wanted the workplace to feel collaborative, be inclusive of employees and the communities they serve, and reflect the foundation’s mission. The new campus needed to foster innovation and engagement while providing inspiring and healthy spaces for work. Employees also valued cutting-edge technology to enhance communication and new ways of work.
CREATING A FLEXIBLE WORKPLACE
Missouri Foundation for Health’s inclusive design supports different work styles for each person and task. The open-office design divides the former ironworks building along a strong central spine, separating focused workspaces from more collaborative meeting spaces, which also can be used for community events.
“A driving force behind our building concept is that the footprint is roughly twice the area needed for the foundation’s workplace program,” says Barb Anderson-Kerlin, senior project manager at HOK. “That extra space allowed the foundation to think beyond their depth and provide gathering spaces that can be used by other organizations aligned with the foundation’s mission for seminars, workshops and other events.”
The variety of gathering spaces in the office encourages communal collaboration and allows people to select the right-sized space for their needs. The gathering spaces, including huddle rooms, conference spaces, open lounges and additional meeting rooms, offer the latest technology to support a high-performance workplace. A pre-function space with moveable walls provides flexibility for meetings and events of different sizes.
More than 40 workstations, 15 private offices and eight focus/phone rooms provide spaces for heads-down work. Strategic grouping of the workstations also promotes productivity and enhances communication.
HOK also designed office space within one of the renovated residential flats on the campus, which is subleased by community groups and non-profits aligned with the foundation’s mission. While the project was underway, the other 3-story residential flat on the northwest corner of campus partially collapsed, deeming it unfit for restoration. To pivot, the project team collaborated with the foundation and the City of St. Louis’ Cultural Resources Office to re-create the original flat. This new flat now includes an employee amenity space and a boardroom.
REPURPOSING THE PAST
The former ironworks building’s industrial bones are on display throughout the workplace. The project team retained all the existing brick masonry and structural steel. The lobby, interior walls and furnishings feature reclaimed wood from the ironworks building. Concrete floors, exposed pipe and large industrial lights also add to the historic feel.
The re-created residential flat includes 17 unique hand-formed brick shapes and required 3D scanning technology to ensure the design team could match the brickwork on the new building’s main façade to its predecessor.
During this process, the project team determined it would be cost-prohibitive to build all three levels of the flat, which were not needed from a programming standpoint. The team built the front façade up to the three levels with a tall ceiling inside on the ground floor. The back half of the building complements the modern design of the revitalized ironworks building next door.
WELLNESS IN THE WORKPLACE
Aligning with its goal to make lasting positive changes in health, Missouri Foundation for Health wanted its new headquarters to be a beacon of sustainability and wellness. The design needed to elevate the health and wellbeing of the surrounding community and all who visit the campus.
Skylights and expansive windows with fritted glazing fill the workplace with daylight, saving energy and connecting employees to nature. To further support employee wellness, HOK’s design updated the rebuilt residential flat into an amenity space, complete with a fitness center and yoga studio.
The campus and LEED-certified former ironworks building create an urban oasis in the compact Forest Park Southeast neighborhood. Employees and visitors pass rain gardens and native landscaping as they enter the foundation’s front door. Permeable paving in the parking lot mitigates stormwater runoff while enhancing the green space. A central courtyard with firepits and outdoor seating connects the three buildings and provides a gathering place for respite and community outreach events.
The design team also preserved one of the city’s largest pin oak trees on the campus. The site was initially so overgrown with weeds and failing trees that the team did not notice the pin oak. HOK’s landscape design team carefully protected the tree, which sits on the campus parking lot. The team used permeable pavers beneath the tree’s canopy, giving its root system access to rainwater while allowing the foundation to use the surrounding space for overflow parking during community events.
INVESTING IN MISSOURI’S FUTURE
Through thoughtful restoration and rejuvenation, Missouri Foundation for Health’s new campus creates a sense of place for the organization and surrounding community. The 2.6-acre campus, which recently won an Honor Award from the St. Louis Chapter of the AIA, creates a unified space for the Missouri Foundation for Health that supports wellness, inclusivity and resiliency.
PHOTOS: Sam Fentress unless otherwise noted
ARCHITECT, STRUCTURAL ENGINEER, INTERIOR DESIGN, PLANNING AND URBAN DESIGN, AND SUSTAINABLE DESIGN: HOK
- Margaret McDonald, LEED AP, principal in charge
- Barb Anderson-Kerlin, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP BD+C, project manager
- David Yates, AIA, LEED AP, project architect
- Jodie Crohn, LEED GA, project designer
- Allison Johnson, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, WELL AP, USGBC, sustainable design leader
- Steven Crang, P.E., SE, LEED GA, structural engineer
- Tom Kaczkowski, AIA, LEED GA, lighting designer
- Jeff Davis, PLA, ASLA, landscape architect
CEILING TILES: Armstrong World Industries
CARPET: Interface and Bentley Mills
FURNITURE FABRICS: Maharam
ACOUSTIC PANELS: Zintra Acoustic
FURNITURE DEALER: Interior Investments
WORKSTATION FURNITURE: Herman Miller
FOLDING PARTITIONS: Modernfold
STOREFRONTS AND CURTAINWALLS: Oldcastle BuildingEnvelope
WINDOW TREATMENTS: Mecho
CLAY MASONRY: The Belden Brick Company