Community Spirit

Lamar Advertising Company transforms from dark and intuitional, to a light, nature-filled collaborative environment.
Tim Hursley
Steve Dumez, architect and partner with Eskew+Dumez+Ripple, APC, transformed the Lamar Advertising Company’s Baton Rouge offices from a stark, disconnected, 1970s data center into a light, airy and collaborative environment for employees of the billboard advertising agency.

It would be easy to overlook the Lamar Advertising Co.’s Baton Rouge offices. The unremarkable, 1970s-era shell with its meager collection of small windows was, in a former life, a data center and looked every bit the part. Which makes the interior transformation designed by Steve Dumez, an architect and partner at Eskew+Dumez+Ripple, APC even more compelling for both the people using the building and the billboard advertising company’s visitors.

“Most people would look at this building and say, ‘Tear it down,’” says Dumez. “This incredibly enlightened client saw the value in [repurposing it] and made the decision to take that approach.”

That decision resulted in an enormous environmental impact, avoiding approximately 8 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions and diverting 11 million pounds of waste from area landfills. It also resulted in a more open, visually appealing, functional and collaborative environment for Lamar’s employees.

“By opening up the space and connecting it, we were able to support this idea of collaboration,” says Dumez. “The client introduced us to the idea of this single coffeepot. [They] want people to get up from their desks and get a cup of coffee. They want people to get up from their desks and bump into one another — to create a sense of community. For them it was about changing the work routine.”

TOP LEFT: The company’s decision to repurpose the existing building resulted in avoiding approximately 8 million pounds of CO2 emissions and diverting 11 million pounds of waste from going into the landfill. TOP RIGHT: At the top of the combination staircase and “bleachers” hangs a hand-painted vintage Shella billboard. Part of the company’s collection, it represents a time when billboards were hand painted on canvas. BOTTOM LEFT: Dumez says the company has excess space they can expand into, but are finding that the furniture system allows them to tinker without starting over. BOTTOM RIGHT: The “bleachers” leading to the second level created a space for impromptu meetings and connected the formerly disconnected “pancake” style floors. The bleachers are constructed of ipe, a sustainable Brazilian hardwood typically used in outdoor spaces.

By removing some of the structure of the building — eliminating the “pancake” floors which separated the employees — and creating several indoor/outdoor spaces, Dumez and his team were able to create a light-filled, collaborative space.  
“We reconfigured the parking lot by the trees and created a courtyard for the staff,” he says. “This led to the community feel and created opportunities for collaborations.”

One of the most striking features of the space are the “bleachers” leading to the second level. While sustainable Brazilian hardwood is typically used in outdoor spaces (and is also employed in Lamar’s courtyard area), because of its extreme durability, easy maintenance and beautiful weathering, here the rich, dark wood provides a natural, warm element — contrasting with the more industrial features like the concrete floors and exposed painted steel and ductwork. The bleachers also offer a perfect space for impromptu meetings.

Throughout the building, what appear to be art pieces are actually old billboards or parts of billboards, harkening to the history of the company.

“We tried to connect aspects of the business,” says Dumez. “We wove in parts of their business, where either literally or abstractly you understood this is a billboard advertising company.”

At the top of the bleachers hangs a hand-painted vintage Shella billboard, which was part of the company’s collection. It represents a time when billboards were hand-painted on canvas. In the entry corridor, a 100-foot mural depicting highway images from rural to urban landscapes is printed on blank highway signs (what the industry calls “sign blanks”). The company prints highway signs for the state and had sign blanks of all shapes and sizes.

TOP LEFT: The rich, dark wood provides a natural, warm element to the more industrial features like concrete floors and exposed painted steel and ductwork. TOP RIGHT: The conference room features a table custom designed using the large steel tubes that are part of billboard structures. BOTTOM LEFT: The garden on the second floor connects nature to the inside. BOTTOM RIGHT: Ipe, which is easy to maintain and weathers beautifully, is used again in the employee courtyard, which features grand oak trees and further extends the indoor/outdoor spaces.

“One of the owners had just renovated a 1960s Airstream trailer,” says Dumez. “We put it as if it’s along this roadside landscape. So right when you walk in the door you get this sort-of abstract, but sort-of literal representation of the highway.”

The conference room features a custom-designed table that uses the large steel tubes that are part of billboard structures. Hand-painted metal planks were also cleaned up and stabilized and given new life as art pieces.

“They went from canvas to hand-painting on metal planks they would mount up on poles,” says Dumez. “They would hand paint-over the same sign, and when you look at those verticals, each one is a larger piece of another sign. You can sometimes see two or three layers or painted images. They were very abstract and almost look like someone made them as art pieces, but they were simply found pieces.”

 Dumez says he loves visiting with people who’ve never seen the space, because of their visceral reaction.

“The palpable shock or surprise of the nature of the interior environment is exciting to see,” says Dumez. “The special complexity and surprise I think is something that people respond to.”


Company Name: Lamar Advertising Co.

Address: 16560 Old Perkins Road West, Baton Rouge

Office completed: November 2011

Architect: Steve Dumez, architect and partner, Eskew + Dumez + Ripple, APC

Interior designer: Eskew+Dume+Ripple

Furnishings: Eskew+Dumez+Ripple worked with AOS to design and specify the furnishings. AOS was the furniture supplier and Knoll the manufacturer of the workstations and office furnishings

Square footage: 115,000 square feet

Main goal: “It’s really about the people behind the space,” says Steve Dumez. “How they plan to use the space and their corporate culture.”

Biggest challenge: “The staff weren’t convinced this space could be a wonderful environment for them,” Dumez says. “But we showed them what we were thinking, and they certainly embraced it.”

Standout feature: “I think the standout features are the two [areas] where we connect the spaces,” Dumez says. “The way the bleachers connect the light well. The landscape of the light court is always a surprise because it’s a garden on the second floor.”



Categories: Great Offices, Real Estate, The Magazine