When global supermarket chain Whole Foods Market approached global architecture firm IA Interior Architects with a proposition to design their new corporate offices in downtown Seattle, the project team wanted to create a space that maintained Whole Foods’ brand and values.
Located on the third floor of the landmark Seattle Post Intelligencer building at 521 Wall Street, the new office includes hospitality spaces, training spaces, private office areas and conference rooms, and features architectural elements such as demountable walls to allow for flexibility of use. Throughout the duration of the project, IA worked closely with Whole Foods Market’s internal design team to ensure design decisions were made with sustainability and environmental awareness as priorities. Woodman Construction served as the general contractor for the project. Together, they created a space that is committed to Whole Foods’ environmental stewardship and spirit of collaboration, while remaining dedicated to the company’s experiential retail vision.
“IA was excited to be a part of creating an experiential workplace for such a beloved company,” said Nancy Heywood, principal and account manager at IA, in an email to The Registry. “It was important to our team to design a space that elevates their workplace while also connecting back to the exceptional Whole Foods Market retail experience that we all enjoy.”
Whole Foods’ previous location in Bellevue only housed office space, without much opportunity for collaboration or amenities for the team to enjoy. The project’s goal was to design a new space that would not only act as a welcoming gathering hub for staff and visitors, but also offer multi-functional use while maintaining the brand that is Whole Foods Market.
“From the moment you enter, you can feel the culture and comfort of the Whole Foods Market brand through the materials and experiential graphic design,” Heywood said. “The brand is celebrated throughout the space with the use of local materials and thoughtful, yet playful graphics highlighting Whole Foods’ values.”
Whole Foods shares the building with City University of Seattle, so IA took care to design a shared welcome area in the building’s rotunda, along with separate reception areas for each. The design of the Whole Foods entry includes accents of biophilia along a pathway of activated spaces like education rooms, as well as a large “living room” space for both resident and visiting staff. Along the tree-lined window wall are additional small meeting rooms and open area work spaces, followed by a fully functional kitchen and amenity spaces at the building’s round rotunda.
“The workplace is located on the 3rd floor of the historic Seattle Post Intelligencer Building, and we wanted to ensure that we respected this aspect of the project,” Heywood said. “Leveraging the uniqueness of this landmark, IA created hospitality spaces centralized around key architectural features such as a light filled interior atrium and rotunda along the exterior with access to the outdoors.”
The kitchen was designed with equipment such as a convection oven, gas charbroiler and blast chiller. It also provides quick access to elevator deliveries, and a storage area to add to the kitchen’s perceived spaciousness and creativity.
“The test kitchen serves as an integral part of the Whole Foods Market commitment to the goodness of food,” Heywood said. “The layout was a key factor in supporting product testing, the development of new recipes and taste testing all in one space.”
One of the primary goals of the project was to allow for flexibility of use within the space, and the team achieved that by employing demountable walls that can easily transition the training spaces, offices and conference rooms to different purposes. The walls have the added benefit of cost savings and reuse.
“The demountable walls support the acoustic and aesthetic quality of the space while providing cost savings from a traditional glass front system,” Heywood said. “In the future, these walls can be removed and reused without a trip to the landfill.”
One of the other goals of the project was to ensure the sustainability of the project aligned with both Whole Foods’ and IA’s mission and goals. Each of the team’s decisions throughout the design process was made with this key factor in mind.
“Material selections supported the function and quality of the space with local sourcing, when possible,” Heywood said. “The planning and design truly embraces the nature of the historic building, capitalizing on the massive central atrium to provide natural light and reduce energy costs within the narrow floor plate. The team maintained original details including expansive, exposed concrete floors, allowing us to use minimal carpet. In addition to an emphasis on sustainability, IA tackled acoustic challenges by focusing on unique, functional, and visually interesting ceiling solutions to balance sound quality.”
Heywood emphasized the role that collaboration between Whole Foods Market and IA played in the process.
“With purposeful key design features throughout the space, each team member had a different perspective of their favorite design detail,” Heywood said. “Everyone agreed that the best part about this project was the true design collaboration between IA and the Whole Foods Market real estate and design teams.”