Continuum Partners Taps Semple Brown to Design New HQ

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conintuum walls
Museum white walls and spots for highlighting select pieces were integral to the overall design; finishes are understated, refined, simple and unadorned.

BUILDING DIALOGUE

Creating the ideal office environment for the master co-developer of Denver’s new internationally renowned Union Station development catalyzed an inspirational collaboration between Continuum Partners and the workspace design team at Semple Brown.

sarah semple brown
Sarah Semple Brown, FAIA
Principal, Semple Brown

The story begins in 2007 when Mark Falcone, Continuum’s founder and CEO, carefully reserved one block (Block A) directly adjacent to the station’s transit center rail platform as his own. His intention? To fulfill a long held dream of manifesting a different kind of mixed-use project – a boutique hotel, office building and amenities in a cohesive package designed to both enhance the streetscape and activate the neighborhood around it. He also imagined the office building’s fifth-floor penthouse, which would offer panoramic views of Continuum’s grand achievement, as his firm’s long-awaited new headquarters.

Designed for maximum mountain views, the public areas — two conference rooms, a boardroom and breakroom on the southwest side — open up to a furnished deck that extends the full length of the space.

Continuum waited patiently as the overall development project unfolded. Block A quietly sat empty until the broader 10-block Union Station development neared completion, when Falcone and his team finally shifted their focus to his personal project, putting the Kimpton Hotel Born, Continuum office building, and the firm’s corporate home back on the front burner.

“Continuum’s mission is ‘to create human habitats of extraordinary character and enduring value.’ Thus creating a comfortable ‘house’ for his team – one that makes each person happy in their environment – was incredibly important to Mark,” said Semple Brown Project Architect Haily Tweedie. “Tremendous thought went into where everyone would be located. He really wanted his people to be happy,” she added.

The firm’s 20-year anniversary took place almost to the day that they moved into their new 13,000-square-foot space in January 2017, marking a major milestone for a firm that has and continues to make a huge mark on our city.

Location, Location, Location 

continuum floor-to-ceiling
To highlight the floor-to-ceiling views of the Front Range and Union Station, the space was designed to be as open as possible. Private offices line the perimeter with a high degree of visual transparency, yet privacy.

The Union Station Transit Center is the region’s most important infrastructure project since the construction of the Denver International Airport. And Block A sits directly on the rail platform that connects the two transportation hubs.

The feeling one has of being at the very center of this notable project was central to Falcone’s selection of this location. And his staff’s ability to walk visitors around the space, which boasts sweeping views of the mountains and Union Station on all four sides, offers a convenient “in-house” live tour of Continuum’s work.

“Our new office building and space are embedded in the Union Station Transit Center,” explained Falcone. “The hotel and office buildings, which are connected and integrated, together have a very prominent position next to the station’s train platform, so we wanted our space to not only reflect the character and values of the project itself, but of our company as well.

“And working with Mary Kay and Semple Brown made all the sense in the world because they designed the buildings that this office is housed in. We have always had very high regard for their interiors group. It wasn’t a very hard choice.”

Art, Light & Views 

continuum windows
With floor-to-ceiling windows lining all four sides, Continuum’s space also dances with daylight.

To highlight the floor-to-ceiling views of the Front Range and Union Station, the space was designed to be as open as possible. Although private offices line the perimeter, they are framed in very thin-profile Modernus Glass Systems augmented with thoughtfully placed acoustical material to prioritize privacy and minimize sound transmission.

“We work in teams, and those teams are very collaborative,” Falcone explained. “We also spend a lot of time managing other teams and consultants, so our space has a lot of visual transparency, but also a lot of privacy. People can work individually, and can see one another. The offices are not closed in.

“When we first laid this space out, we thought ‘wow’ – this looks nothing like the typical high-technology office today. No library tables with everyone working side by side, etc. We checked in on this multiple times, but we have a lot of private offices here because it’s just the nature of our business.”

With floor-to-ceiling windows lining all four sides, Continuum’s space also dances with daylight.

“Our space is very light. In fact, this is the brightest space we’ve ever had. The daylight in here is just remarkable,” Falcone shared.

The cleanliness of the space also provides a gallerylike environment for Falcone’s and his wife Ellen Bruss’s personal art collection, Tweedie said.

Museum white walls and spots for highlighting select pieces were integral to the overall design, and finishes are understated, refined, simple and unadorned. Floors in circulation areas, the break room and bathrooms are a charcoal-toned ground concrete with the look and feel of terrazzo. Individual offices are carpeted in a soft blue hue to add color, while the rest of the palette is purposely monotone. Subtle touches of color were also added here and there to highlight details. Falcone’s solid walnut desk and office conference tables were crafted by Tom Diess of Mori Furniture Design. 

Indoor-Outdoor Design 

The indoor-outdoor aspect of the space was also a part of the discussion from day one. Designed for maximum mountain views, the public areas, which consist of two conference rooms, a boardroom and break room on the southwest side, open up to a furnished deck that extends the full length of the space.

“As we were designing the building, we knew we would be reserving the top floor of the office building for us,” said Falcone. “We had our use in mind when we designed it, so we created some very specific outdoor spaces that we knew would reflect who we are and how we work. People really use the outdoor space here. The terraces have deep overhangs and great views, so we can work outside without having to be in the sunlight.

“We like to say that we earned this view,” he added.

An AstroTurf system area was also installed on the outdoor deck to encourage a dog-friendly environment.

“One hundred percent of our staff loves the space. I think people have really enjoyed it,” Falcone added. “We really feel like the space reflects our culture and character and how we work here. We were able to create a bright space that is refined with a lot of character, but we were also able to create a light-filled space within which to show art well.

“It’s important to live in a space that reflects our space-making abilities; a space consistent with the other projects we do,” he concluded.

Published in the March 2018 issue of Building Dialogue.

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