Durham Office

Perkins&Will Durham Studio

A Downtown Home

The Durham Studio is a 12,000 square foot renovation, relocating an architecture studio from a suburban office park to downtown Durham. The design firm leased the entire second floor of this 1965 office building, completely gutting and repositioning it to provide a fresh, new studio environment. The design emphasizes open views, day-lit interiors, team-centered work environments, and flexibility. The design aesthetic is a nod to the building’s mid-century heritage while embracing 21st-century ideas for collaboration and a healthy work environment. From its new home in the Tower at Mutual Plaza, the studio better engages with the surrounding community and downtown Durham.

Just as the studio operates in a more concentrated urban context, its staff occupy a more efficient workspace. The lease area, at 193 square feet per desk, is 39 percent more compact than before. Storage and circulation are focused around the building’s central core, which keeps the floor open for naturally lit, barrier-free design work.

Storage and circulation are compactly arranged around the central core, optimizing space resources while encouraging design activities to always engage with daylight and the city around us. This core is also a gallery, exhibiting tangible evidence of architectural craft while the surrounding studio exhibits the process of that craft.
In every direction, this interior landscape features visual continuity.
Efficiency and Health

Efficiency and health can support each other in workplaces. In addition to avoiding products and materials containing toxins found on the firm’s Precautionary List, the Durham studio pursued and achieved Fitwel-certification. Using Fitwel, Perkins&Will assessed the space’s layout of stairwells and outdoor spaces, proximity to public transit and fitness facilities, indoor air quality, and the ease of employees’ access to healthy foods. Sit-stand workstations, all LED lighting with daylight controls, dual level perimeter shades, and other strategies were utilized in the design of this healthy and sustainable work environment.

The new studio is characterized by an open, efficient, and sustainable arrangement of space that connects employees to each other, the work they do, and their Durham context.
The design recognizes architecture’s migration from working as individuals to team-oriented design efforts. In response, the studio is more compact with flexible teaming environments situated centrally to the studio.
A Nod to History

At the time of its completion in 1965, the Brutalist structure—then known as the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance building—was, at 12 stories, the tallest African American-owned structure in the United States. After the building’s sale to a new owner who planned significant renovations, Perkins&Will signed a lease for a 12,000-square-foot floor with 360-degree views of Durham.

Project Team

Kenneth Luker