Insurance and Education & Workforce Development

Ad firm's new HQ shows imagination: Former school gets makeover for Young & Laramore

March 27, 2006

The Indianapolis-based advertising firm's former building, at 409 Massachusetts Ave., featured an interior atrium, open work spaces and a large fish sculpture in the window that caught the eye of passersby on the busy commercial corridor.

For its new building, a former school tucked into Lockerbie Square a few blocks away, the firm had to decide how to creatively use a choppedup floor plan, complete with a gymnasium in the middle.

Young & Laramore enlisted Eric Rowland and Sarah Schwarzkopf of locally based Rowland Design Inc. for design help and Indianapolis-based Shiel Sexton Inc. for construction work.

Designing offices for a creative business like an advertising firm is, by Rowland's estimation, the second-hardest design job-right behind a school of architecture.

"It's a building full of critics," said Rowland of firms like Young & Laramore. "Everyone in it is a good designer."

In Y&L's case, however, collaboration came along with high expectations. Company founders David Young and Jeff Laramore worked hand-in-hand with Rowland and Schwarzkopf on design concepts. Some aspects-furnishings and sculptures, for instance-were left almost entirely up to the pair, who also are

founders of 2nd Globe Studios, which designs and fabricates functional artwork. Those kind of contributions from the firm's principals helped keep the project within Y&L's budget, Rowland said.

Rowland took care of space planning and floor plan design, including which part of the 34,000-square-foot building Y&L would occupy. The firm needed about 20,000 square feet and planned to rent out the remainder, but wanted to be able to expand into some of that space as needed.

One solution would have been for the ad firm to take over the entire ground floor, but Rowland convinced Y&L that moving into parts of two floors would fit its way of doing business better.

"We thought it would be better to take parts of the second and third floors and make the gym the connecting space," Rowland said. "They wanted the gym to have a lot of circulation in it, to become a very active space."

Existing staircases were tucked out of sight, so Rowland designers and Y&L principals devised a "rocket-ship" sculpture to sit at one end of the gym and connect the two floors. An iron staircase connects the two floors, with a landing at the top of the rocket.

At Y&L, such gathering spaces are important, explained President Paul Knapp, because creative teams are constantly having short, impromptu meetings to discuss the firm's accounts, which include national campaigns for Steak n Shake, Stanley Steemer and Delta Faucet.

The firm's former 17,000-square-foot headquarters, designed by Ratio Architects when Y&L bought it in the early 1980s, at one time had many of those kinds of meeting spaces; however, the firm had grown to the point where the building was no longer as efficient, Rowland said. Staff of 2nd Globe mainly had to work off-site and some spaces had become cramped, he said.

Creating flow

One of the biggest challenges of the new building was eliminating what remained of the concrete-block classroom walls of the former Indianapolis Public School No. 9.

The building received a complete overhaul in 1988 and was renamed the Brougher Building when it was purchased by locally based insurance company International Medical Group. Y&L purchased the building from IMG last year when the firm moved to the former Indianapolis Life Insurance Co. campus on North Meridian Street. A Broad Ripple medical staffing firm, RN Specialties, purchased Y&L's Mass Ave building.

For RN Specialties and its 21 employees, Y&L's old space fits perfectly, said company owner Elizabeth Dillon. Other than refitting the first floor to accommodate a future retail tenant and minor changes such as new carpet and office reconfiguration, little of the space will change, she said.

"Young and Laramore did such neat things in there," Dillon said of the building's design.

The ad firm moved out of the building in January. Knapp declined to say what the firm spent to buy the school building or on its renovation. The former school had been listed for $4.5 million, but sources at the time said the sale price was less than that.

In the 1988 rehab, IMG took care of mechanical renovations and updates in the 1899 building, but constructed a lot of interior office walls. Removing the newer walls was fairly easy, Rowland said, but three major sections of concrete walls remained.

After those were demolished and the floor plan opened, curvilinear half-walls were constructed to visually lead employees through the three sections of the Ushaped offices on the building's third floor. Those symbolically and visually link the creative and account management departments, Knapp said.

"That helped us achieve a much more unified space on the third floor," he said.

On the second, or ground, floor, administrative offices lead into the gym, which got an overhaul before Y&L moved in. The original wood gym floor remains, but tiles surrounding it were replaced with contrasting wood.

The ceiling was repainted and lights were installed to highlight the craftsmanship, which Rowland called "the most interesting plaster work in the building."

Another design challenge was the geography of the new location. The firm's employees, accustomed to literally crossing the street for a cup of coffee or going next door for lunch, suddenly found themselves separated from the bustling Mass Ave corridor by several blocks.

Anticipating more in-office meals, Rowland and Schwarzkopf designed the kitchen in the new headquarters, just off the gym, to accommodate catered events as well as employees bringing in their own food, Rowland said. The lobby space has the feel of a coffee shop, minus the barista, he said.

"For them, a cultural move off Mass Ave was a big thing," Rowland said.

2nd Globe showcase

In addition to the rocket ship in the gym, which Young said was inspired in part by the jungle gyms of his youth at Broad Ripple Park, 2nd Globe will be showing off more of its work in the new headquarters.

Yet to be installed in the gym is another 2nd Globe creation, a tapestry that will hang over the school's former stage. Most of the stage has been walled off to create rest rooms, leaving a largely unusable set- back on the opposite end of the gym from the rocket ship.

Not only will the tapestry, scheduled to be installed in the coming weeks, add an artistic element to the space, it's designed to improve the acoustics and keep the din in the cavernous room to a manageable level, Knapp said.

Throughout the building, most of the office furnishings are 2nd Globe creations, Knapp said. All the desks, regardless of size, will be what the firm calls "the 2nd Globe desks," Knapp said.

Several years ago, the firm's principals designed a metal-and-birch-plywood desk for some off-site office space. Everyone liked the design so much, Knapp said, that all new desks were copied from that design.

Most renovations focused on the interior of Y&L's new space, but one of the major exterior changes was the replacement of a curved piece of limestone on the entry.

An inscription on the limestone, a quote from Clemens Vonnegut (see photo above), pays homage both to him, the building's original architect, and to its current owners' philosophy of not letting presumption stand in the way of education, Knapp said.
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