By the Cuningham design team
Every successful design starts with a story. For the Jules Verne office building in Verona, Wisconsin, it literally is. Drawing inspiration from the works of acclaimed writer Jules Verne, Cuningham’s design team used a color palette, material selections and countless finishing touches to bring literary classics such as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea to life. seas and Around the World in 80 Days, all in the form of a modern office space.
Part of a larger “Storybook Campus”, the Jules Verne building presented unique challenges: not only did the designers have to weave Verne’s various science fiction stories into a single thematically cohesive space, but they also had to connect it to the other campus buildings. , which are also based on well-known literary properties.
To create a cohesive continuous line and visually connect these spaces, the designers turned their attention downward. Cuningham worked closely with commercial flooring contractor Diverzify to develop a strategic approach to flooring that could organize the building’s pockets of adventure both thematically and by orientation. The close collaboration between Cuningham and Diverzify has resulted in unique concepts defined by their vibrant colors and crisp patterns. The final rug designs feature traditional European patterns, while bold graphics lean into Verne’s most fantastical stories.
COMBINE WORK AND ADVENTURE
Although the various buildings on campus have their own unique, sometimes fantastical themes, they are primarily functional office spaces where the tasks of the day need to be accomplished. Although the overall environments are designed to be immersive, the desktops themselves remain grounded, while remaining tied to the overall design.
Within the Jules Verne Building, each area focuses on a different adventure, presented through custom storybook covers, some of the over 150 custom graphics throughout the space. In each zone, vibrant patterns, colors and textures are used to maintain a sense of place, with quieter zones providing daily office workers with a soothing environment in which to work.
Layers come and go as one moves between larger main areas and smaller individual professional spaces. Employee break rooms provide additional whimsical moments and provide concentrated vignettes of the tales that come to life in each wing. In the Explorer’s Club area, for example, the walls of the break room are lined with portraits of animals dressed as kings, anchored by a trapezoidal floor pattern in royal blue, gold and white. This is custom vinyl flooring designed by Cuningham and printed by Suttle Strauss, the company’s local printing partner.
The centerpiece of the building pays homage to what is perhaps Verne’s most iconic story, that of Captain Nemo and his underwater adventures. A huge octopus tentacle – the culmination of countless hours of research, collaboration and experimentation – smashes the wooden floor to stupendous effect.
To create the signature sea creature, the team spent weeks studying scientific illustrations and images of octopuses, comparing the shading and proportions of the arms and suction cups. To bring this oversized sea creature to life, designers turned to bespoke manufacturing company Ravenswood Studio, which creates sets and sets for theater and opera companies, museum exhibits and corporate clients.
Although the design and fabrication of the fiberglass and foam tentacle was difficult, integrating it into the landscape presented a very unique challenge. The team used flashings and LSI LVT to evoke the image of a ship and manually created a splintered wood floor. Since the area is a highly visible and heavily traveled hallway, the team used solid hardwood supplied by Musolf’s Wood Flooring before upgrading to LSI’s LVT in other areas of the building. The authentic material lends a degree of realism to the otherwise fantastical nautical scene.
The other most labor-intensive element of the overall construction was the feature staircase. Flanking the large tentacle, this component goes from a curved staircase to a traditional vertical construction and took over a year of modeling and brainstorming. Extensive product-to-product color matching and specialist cutting was required to ensure that the custom rigid nosing and treads curved and blended with the LVT used as the ship-like wallcovering. The 3D sculptural modeling of the project was important, not only because of its detailed nature, but also because the team was often far away. It set the benchmark for Cuningham’s projects in the future.
ORIENTATION THROUGH MATERIALS
Navigating through the building’s various adventures is meant to be a challenging, yet intuitive experience. To help orient employees and guests, templates are used for both form and function. Colors and repetition of shapes, such as an arabesque or an Art Nouveau filigree pattern, identify each space while linking it to the specific story being told. The main carpet, a bespoke carpet from Mohawk’s Durkan, depicts a series of gears in homage to Verne’s avant-garde imagination, while easing the transition between neighboring buildings, Chocolate Factory and Monster Land.
Many mats are custom designed by the team’s graphic designer or work directly with the manufacturer’s designers to ensure the final product meets the homeowner’s expectations. Along with direction and storytelling, the team had to figure out where the budget allowed for 24v12 builds against two suits.
Believing that flooring is an integral part of a truly immersive design and that just incorporating running lines can feel flat, Cuningham – who works extensively in the hospitality industry – has designed so many custom rugs with different manufacturers that some have incorporated them into their own catalogs.
Offices provide a contemplative place to work through the incorporation of Bentley’s rugs, which are usually a custom recoloration of racing line patterns. Other custom building materials include sheet vinyl, printed on G-Floor vinyl for use in break rooms, copy rooms and many entryways. The breadth of custom graphics for this project led the team to standardize processes and develop a themed booklet to help digitally track the intense matrix.
KEEP AN EYE ON THE FUTURE
With such global designs, campus maintenance teams are an important partner in the process, both upstream and downstream. The customer has structured guidelines for where and how certain materials can be used, learned through trial and error and through wear and tear.
Merging thematic and functional objectives comes down to understanding how the materials and buildings themselves behave, which is detailed in models provided to the facilities management team. Although only durable materials are selected, their maintenance can make a huge difference in their lifespan. Everything is taken into account, from the cleaning tools to the products used and the frequency of cleaning. New materials must be checked and approved, not only for their durability, but also to be incorporated into the established practices of the maintenance team.
As campus spaces and available material options have evolved, there have been refreshes over the years to update the aesthetic or move to a new, higher performance flooring construction. However, there was no complete overhaul. This is a testament to the initial design process, which is a highly collaborative effort.
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