The Ralph C. Wilson Foundation is a philanthropic organization that provides aid and support to communities in southeast Michigan and western New York. The organization sought to expand its presence in the downtown Detroit area in 2016 by relocating its Michigan Headquarters to New Center, a neighborhood just outside of the city’s downtown area. Located on the second floor of a historic 3-story building, the new space occupies 8,000 square feet.
The interaction of program with existing building conditions and time constraints presented several challenges, including structural issues, complications in adhering to historic building requirements, and the consequences of a short schedule. Opportunities, though, were also presented.
The translation of community outreach to design concepts helped drive the office space planning by Hamilton Anderson Associates. The design included areas for gathering, as well as individual offices, facilitating communal interaction yet also intimate reflection and focus. Glass writable walls were specified in the glass-enclosed offices to promote collaboration and visible exposure. Transparent partitions and doors throughout the space preserve its openness, encouraging team mentality. This transparency also allows natural light to flow throughout the space, reaching beyond the enclosed offices and brightening public circulation areas.
A warm color palette was used to reinforce the character and cause of the space. Wood flooring, wood veneer wall treatments and the glass writable walls play into this palette, specified for harmony with the historical existing space. Custom millwork, including cabinetry in the offices, as well as the communal spaces, was specifically designed to cater to the needs of the foundation’s workflow and processes. Value was recognized in the historic nature of the space, informing a historic hallway to be preserved as an art gallery. The artwork displayed in this gallery was a curation of the life and success of the organization.
In addition to breathing life back into a decaying but historic structure, the Ralph C. Wilson Foundation’s successful expanse into and activation of this space enables the organization to reach even more families in need in Detroit and its surrounding communities.
The following is a sampling of materials used in the project:
Engineered Wood: Terra Legno
Roof Deck Terrazzo Concrete Tile: Concrete Collaborative
Writable Glass Boards, Door Lites and Transom Glass: Bendheim
Wood Veneer: Shinooki
Felt Panels: FilzFelt
BEFORE PHOTO: Hamilton Anderson Associates
AFTER PHOTOS: John D’Angelo