Landscape Forms' Outdoor Office
Landscape Forms is a company that exists to enrich people's outdoor experiences, and that mission extends to its own employees. The company's Kalamazoo, Michigan, headquarters is an outdoor showroom of site furnishings, LED lighting, and now Upfit, an adaptive structure that creates outdoor destinations for all kinds of activities, including working.
The Upfit structure, initially installed to support market launch and customer
visits, has evolved into an active work and relaxation space for Landscape Forms’ employees.
Foto: "Upfit is both a product and a space. It's open but it still feels contained. It's a good anchor. People like to be outside but also have the comfort of the anchor."
Foto: “I don’t come out here if it’s raining, but if I’m already outside having a meeting
and it does start to rain, I don’t have to get up and head back indoors.”
A work oasis
During the warm Michigan months, Upfit is a busy place. In fact, there are often times when every setting within the 903 square foot structure and surrounding space is occupied. But the space isn't noisy. It has a very different vibe from the indoor workspace with its open layout and the sounds of phones, voices, and white noise. The indoor/outdoor nature of Upfit creates a space that feels expansive but blends into its surroundings. "A space this size would feel more like an auditorium if it were indoors," said an employee. But set within the outdoors and approximately 200 feet from the facility, people in Upfit feel like they are part of something larger than the structure; they can look out at the landscape around them. "I love that we have a space where you can hear the sounds of nature, feel the breeze and sun. It's a comfortable place with different spaces to set up camp. It's nice to work and not feel like I'm in an office."
Foto: "The Harvest table comfortably accommodated my meeting with seven people. Sitting around the table, it felt like we were all included in the conversation."
People are drawn to the space for different reasons, sometimes to make a phone call, do heads-down work without the distractions of the busy office area, or creative brainstorming with a small group. "This space allows my mind to wander and ideas to flow versus the experience of the indoor office's closer quarters." It's not only work that happens in Upfit; it's also a popular place for lunch or short breaks throughout the day.
Upfit's variety of furniture and natural setting combine to create textural variation and visual activity. The movement of light and shadows through the louvers and panels and the blend of surface materials create a rich and ever-changing experience for people in the space. "Being outdoors is nice, but Upfit also feels like a semi-enclosed space. It offers privacy and comfort, but I get to enjoy the natural elements around me."
Foto: “I like the outdoor rectangular table; I can
put my feet up and relax.”
A coffee shop vibe with a little library in the mix
Behaviors in Upfit are similar to those seen in coffee shops and libraries. The larger tables and perch are intended for communal use, and people are comfortable sharing spaces with others. The benefits of a communal space extend to commingling of people from different departments.
A frequent response when asked why employees come outside to work in Upfit is, "It helps me to be productive." There is an understanding that people who are working in Upfit are looking for uninterrupted work timeit's a distraction-free zone. Even when two or more groups are sharing a table, they are respectful of each other's purpose in getting work done. "This is like the library you go to when you want quiet and need to get work done." That isn't to say the space is quiet; multiple people are having meetings and conversing at any time. "When I'm working in Upfit, it makes me feel like I want to do good work out here. It's a space that feels purposeful, and that's important. It helps me to be purposeful and makes me want to stay."
The Upfit structure at Landscape Forms is composed of three adjoining 16' x 16' x 10' base units, two with a louvered roof with weather sensors for protection from the elements, integrated lighting, and semi-enclosed with a variety of Upfit louvered, slatted, glass, and green panels. It is powered and has charging capabilities and Wifi connection. The space is furnished with two Upfit standing-height in-line table and standing-height peninsula table, both with Chipman bar stools; an Upfit dining-height peninsula table with 21 chairs; and a variety of Landscape Forms products, including a GO OutdoorTable with Chipman bar stools, a Harvest table and benches, a Parc Centre round with 21 chairs, and a Kornegay Quartz planter that offer employees a choice of settings in which to work and options for individuals or groups of differing sizes, activity, or mood. The Parc Centre and dining-height peninsula tables are located outside of the Upfit structure, providing "indoor/outdoor" choices.
Foto: "I like the standing-height GO table. It gives me a chance to move around while I'm working."
Foto: "Out here meetings are smaller and shorter. Indoors, we often have larger meetings in the conference rooms, which last longer."