From Strip Mall to an Eden: The Creation of ALEC Headquarters

Working with Abbott Laboratories Employee Credit Union(ALEC), DC designed a new space that emphasized ALEC's devotion and support of their members.

Abbott Laboratories Employee Credit Union (ALEC) headquarters started out in a tiny corner of a strip mall. Over the years, they grew into different stores of the strip mall, spreading out through a large portion of the mall. The location did not allow for a well-organized production. A credit union branch was also squeezed into the space, which meant that customers came into the mall. The space was uninspiring and had office furniture that was handed down from a previous owner. There was no flow to the space, and different departments of the credit union headquarters were unable to communicate with each other as smoothly as they could.
ALEC wanted a place that was worthy of their people, clients and employees, a space that was welcoming and inviting. The building should be on par with the services that they are providing to their members. A significant feature of the new ALEC headquarters building is the community hub area. ALEC’s culture is important to them, and the new hub was designed to facilitate the culture in a way that it wasn’t being encouraged before by the previous space. ALEC’s training center was split into two units in the strip mall and is now centralized in the new space. Departments are much better organized, and small areas were built in to promote community and small gatherings throughout the space.
A significant part of the building design is the considerable access to daylight and peaceful views of nature. Not one workspace is more than 30 feet from an exterior view (a LEED design principle). You can stand almost anywhere on the upper floors and see a vista. The building was carefully positioned not to disrupt the natural wetlands, and to share that element with employees. It was also designed to shield views of the theme park and interstate nearby.
ALEC’s brand was integrated not only through graphics and furniture, but throughout the exterior design as well. The designers aimed to create a palette that would allow their brand to stand out, be prominent. It is also meant to be timeless, with a materials palette that wouldn’t be out of date in the next several years. This gives them a clear, strong voice that lets their clients know ALEC’s ability to take care of them.
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Adam James, RA
Architect