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At Adobe, new Utah building inspires, by design
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

At the sprawling new Adobe building at its campus in Lehi, any employee can just walk right through the office of Brad Rencher, the company's top executive in Utah.

And that's the point.

Visitors can just casually amble right up to the desk of the guy who oversees the operation that produces about a billion dollars in annual revenue for the California-based high-tech giant.

To get there, though, you may have been to the fitness center, stopped for a healthy snack or meal at the cafe and then passed through the huge open-atrium lunchroom with pool tables for employee recreation, walked by an engrossing piece of art, trucked up several flights of stairs, strolled by conference rooms themed with names of successful innovators and worked your way down a corridor along the outside wall of the building.

For Adobe, it's all part of the plan to create workspaces that help its employees collaborate and innovate in a way that engenders continued profitability.

Its new $107 million building nestled along Interstate 15 is designed in a way that enhances access, collaboration and workforce hiring, health and happiness — all better to spur the innovation that's the hallmark of a sustainable high-tech company.

"This entire building was designed to create those moments, what I call the unplanned collaboration, the unplanned community communication," Rencher said during a recent tour of the building.

The design of the 280,000-square-foot building, inside and out, is aimed at creating an ecology of planned and unplanned cooperation and innovation. Adobe also wants the new facilities to help keep employees happy and healthy — and to be a factor in its favor in recruiting top talent.

In short, the company and its executive team believe the office space design can be a key ingredient in its business success.

The building, across the highway from Thanksgiving Point, is striking and bold as it spans a road. Its fitness center is partially suspended above the ground on what the company says are the largest steel beams in use in Utah.

"It's not the typical box in a parking lot, developer-built building," said Jonathan Francom, director of Adobe's global real estate. "We wanted to stand out and make a bold statement. We wanted something, that as you drive down the freeway, was noticed and made some type of statement and helped us attract and retain the best talent in Utah."

Francom said interior and exterior architects worked together from the beginning to design the facility to meet Adobe's desires for a special work space.

But amid its massiveness, the new Adobe structure holds lessons for even the smallest company, he said.

Francom suggested companies could:

• Pull workstations, offices and conference rooms away from the perimeter so that everyone can enjoy the view while natural light is maximized

• Place graphics on walls that help highlight aspects of the company's culture and help make the space feel distintive and connected to the brand

• Create open and closed collaboration spaces for planned and unplanned interactions

• Do small things in general to make the space feel special

Some ideas at the new Adobe building had been used before, in offices for Google and other Bay area tech companies, said Mike Herring, vice president of operations. But the Utah facility is distinctive for a number of design innovations.

"Really there's a lot of things [the architects have] done here that nobody else has done in terms of really trying to break some rules," he said. "We built a building over a road. I mean we broke a lot of rules."

Inside, about 85 percent of the structure is open work space, with only 15 percent used for enclosed offices, none of them against the outside glass.

"We really wanted to push people out of offices and into collaborative environments," said Herring.

The design also encourages the use of stairs instead of elevators to get between floors — the aim being to foster exercise among the nearly 1,000 people who work there. In that mode, formal exercise areas were the No. 1 requested amenity among employees when the company was planning the building. So there's a gymnasium for basketball, a climbing wall, a room for yoga and one full of fitness equipment. (The company-sponsored cycling team also has a lockerroom.)

These and other areas also are meant to facilitate chance meetings of employees, the hope being that they can get to know each other when they otherwise might not.

The cafe has a variety of healthy choices for meals. In the airy adjoining atrium, employees can sit together for lunch or shoot a game of pool. Conference rooms are available for lunchtime meetings and can be easily scheduled for use.

The building is full of distinctive works of art, including pieces from a Los Angeles photorealistic graffitist named El Mac, who uses Adobe's Photoshop to create giant murals with spray paint. El Mac's depiction of a girl coloring is on the wall along one side of the atrium.

The mural and other pieces were installed to remind employees of the creative work they are producing through Adobe's products.

Outside, the company has special parking spaces close to the building for employees who drive hybrid or low-emission vehicles. The building is LEED certified, a designation of its high-energy conservation attributes, including recycling heat from its energy-intensive computer server facility to warm the atrium in winter.

Rencher, after about a month in his new office, said that the new work space was initially disorienting "because it changes the way you work, where you do meetings, where you meet, where people are sitting."

Now, instead of seemingly endless meetings that aren't particularly constructive, Adobe employees have numerous opportunities for unplanned collaboration, he said.

"A lot of times where those magic moments happen isn't in a scheduled meeting, it's like, 'Hey I've been thinking about something,' you and I are talking and we come up with an idea."

tharvey@sltrib.com

Twitter: @TomHarveySltrib

Workplace • Adobe created spaces to drive collaboration, innovation.
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