Olson Kundig uses glass bridge to connect office buildings near Atlanta's BeltLine

US studio Olson Kundig Architects has shaded a boxy, glass office complex with aluminium screens near Atlanta’s BeltLine and included a glass-clad volume to connect to buildings and frame the pedestrian paths.

The 1,100,000-square-foot (102,193-square metre) two-building structure was completed in 2023 by Seattle-based studio Olson Kundig on a significant historical site from the Civil War.

Office complex by Olson Kundig Architects
Olson Kundig Architects shaded a boxy, glass office complex with aluminium screens

The pair of buildings create a centrally located civic plaza and frame portals toward Downtown Atlanta and Historic Fourth Ward Park.

The complex connects via an outdoor staircase to the city’s BeltLine, a 22-mile (35 kilometres) urban trail and light rail system that reconnects communities that have been divided over the course of Atlanta’s history.

Interior view of the complex by Olson Kundig
The complex connects to Atlanta’s BeltLine

“The Old Fourth Ward neighborhood is now re-emerging, thanks in part to new development along the BeltLine Eastside Trail,” said Olson Kundig principal Tom Kundig.

“This project doesn’t just sit beside the BeltLine, it invites that pathway into. The design was heavily influenced by the BeltLine and the desire to weave those ground-level pedestrian pathways into the experience of the architecture.”

Street-level retail space
Mail Chimp’s new headquarters are contained above a street-level retail space

The expansive office building houses Mail Chimp’s new headquarters above the street-level retail space. A planted central plaza contains a set of stepped terraces that negotiate the site’s grade change and connect parking, multi-modal transit, retail and amenity zones.

Operable glass walls are operated via a steel pulley-and-cable system, which can be found in many of Olsen Kundig’s past designs.

“We wanted to make the building porous, which in turn helped to drive the form,” said design principal Kirsten Ring Murray.

Stepped terraces
A planted central plaza contains a set of stepped terraces

“Though it’s a large building, we wanted to introduce an experience of passing through multiple, smaller-scaled components, to complement rather than overwhelm the adjacent buildings.

“It’s intended to be an inviting, welcoming building that integrates with the surrounding community. Articulating the tower form also increases the interior users’ access to natural daylight and fresh air, creating healthy and humane workspaces,” Murray continued.

Concrete interior of office building by Olson Kundig
Flexibility was prioritised in the floorplates

Constructed with concrete and structural steel, the office spaces rise out of underground parking into two towers, divided into stacked, three-storey horizontal bands.

The sixth through eighth levels create a bridge that spans the central plaza, creating a vaguely H-shaped longitudinal elevation. That bridge is topped with a planted terrace on the ninth level.

Speculative office space
The spaces can be rented individually or combined

Designed to be offices, the floorplates prioritise flexibility and allow spaces to be rented individually or combined for larger tenants.

The curtain wall glazing is shaded by a black-coloured aluminium screen that is durable and lightweight. Each fin is shaped to minimize wind profile and snow and ice accumulation.

Aluminium screens
The aluminium screens are optimised to reduce glare

Meanwhile, the screens are optimised to reduce glare and preserve views of the surrounding city and the high floor-to-floor heights allow light to reach deep into the interiors.

“The deep architectural sunscreens allow for the maximum number of building users to enjoy optimal conditions, even in a warm climate like Atlanta,” Murray said, noting the equitable access to daylight.

Underground parking
There is also underground parking

“Instead of lowering blinds to block the sun and stay comfortable – which also block the views – the shading components balance solar heat gain without intruding on the view.”

On the interior, the lobby of the northern tower references the red clay and bedrock of the Georgian hill country with a rusted steel panel wall in the reception area and oversized lanterns.

Alternatively, the lobby of the southern tower recalls the muted blue tones and natural textures of the Blue Ridge mountains with a local Georgia gum wood-panelled wall and custom glass lighting.

Targeting LEED Gold certification, the team selected systems that would reduce energy consumption and address stormwater runoff. The project encourages alternate forms of transportation with a connection to the BeltLine Bicycle Trail and a future light rail station.

Aluminium screens
The complex was designed to be an inviting, welcoming building

“Both inside and outside of the building, there’s a lot of opportunity for natural movement and a richness to how you explore and experience the circulation,” Murray said.

“The area is extremely walkable and bikeable, and easy access to the BeltLine allows building tenants and visitors to connect to the larger city beyond.”

Recently, Olson Kundig completed its self-designed New York studio with an expansive timber table that rises into an abstraction of a cityscape in the center.

The studio also teamed up with Canadian designer Erica Colpitts to renovate a mid-century house outside of Vancouver and collaborated with Mexican furniture brand ATRA to outfit a Los Angeles home.

The photography is by Nic Lehoux.

Project credits:

Project Team: Tom Kundig, Kirsten Ring Murray, Steven Rainville, Kimberly Shoemake-Medlock, John Hallock, Christopher Hall, Kailin Wang, Ana Brainerd, Betty Huang, Evan Harlan, Erik Gunderson, Amir Ghazanfari, Laura Sinn and Alexis Burson Nichol, Vikram Sami, Sarah Muchow, Margaret Undine, Kinsey Johnson, Jane Devine,
Developer: New City
Executive architect: HKS
General contractor: Brasfield & Gorrie
Design landscape architect: Future Green Studio
Landscape architect, civil engineer and parking & traffic engineer: Kimley Horn
Structural engineer: Uzon + Case
Sustainability, LEED and commissioning: Working Buildings
MEP engineer: ENGR3 Consulting Engineers
Façade consultants: Front and Green Facades
Lighting design: Niteo
Estimator: Arc Cost Group
Accessibility: Studio Pacifica

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