What is CENTRA? “It’s another New Jersey office park”. Yes, but not quite. The client purchased the property, which had a poorly sited, 100,000-square-foot building and the potential for 750,000 square feet for future development. In lieu of tearing down the existing structure, which was in bad condition and functioning below current standards, the client and architect made critical choices to salvage valuable components and recycle the structure to work for prospective tenants. Transformation of the given structure aims to re-position the property as a whole and pave the way for continuing development. As the first building, Centra becomes a gateway to a new master vision. Why is CENTRA Different? The project demonstrates a user-friendly approach by avoiding the common practice of siting blocks of buildings in vast
seas of parking devoid of landscape. The intention to minimize movement from car to building allows one to embrace an urban / suburban campus aesthetic. Buildings in the garden utilize landscape promenades, urban rooms, and closely spaced architecture to create a strong community and sense of place. Together, the landscape and building form encourage social interaction and provide a healthier and more sustainable environment. Architecture and art play essential roles in shaping spaces and in focusing views and movement. Location Situated in the heart of New Jersey, 40 minutes from downtown New York City and 20 minutes from Newark, the site occupies a strategic location between the Garden State Express Parkway and Amtrak’s Northeast corridor and New Jersey Transit’s commuter rail. A five minute walk from the train station,
the project can be seen clearly at the end of the street axis as the road bends away. The local context is mostly typical suburban office parks and intermittent forest. Subtractions The existing, poorly performing strip window exterior wall was removed. The all-steel structure was kept and reinforced to bring the building up to present building codes. All floor slabs and roof deck were retained and half of the existing core was reused. Two light wells on the east and west sides of the building were excavated to bring daylight into the subsurface level and provide an additional 20,000 square feet of usable space. Additions On the fourth floor, a 10,000-square-foot addition was added to the building, creating an overhead and sheltering a new plaza space below. An art column and long span truss design was utilized to provide an open gateway to the future development on the site. A new floor to ceiling high-performance glass façade was added. The lower level and first three levels were clad in dark glass. The fourth floor utilizes low iron glass with white frit to create the presence of a levitating box. Gateway + Campus The planning strategy at Centra was developed to accommodate an additional 750,000 square feet of growth on the site. This first building acts as a gateway to the future campus. A campus spine becomes a central promenade garden room that promotes human interaction, enjoyment of nature and a sense of place. In the first phase, this garden takes the temporary form of landscape pyramidal objects that create parking rooms to the sides. As future buildings are added, the spine transforms into the garden room. Rejected Model of Typical Development • Sea of Parking Most local developments isolate the office building from the landscape through vast areas of parking with little to no planting. • Non-Interactive Form Building forms, entries, and pedestrian sequences do not encourage interaction among office users. Most buildings have formal show entries facing the street and minimal back door entries that the office worker utilizes regularly. Little sense of place is achieved. • Landscape Removed All major planting is removed from proximity to the building, creating a desolate zone of parking. Unshaded parking creates a heat island effect and movement to and from the building is mundane and oppressive. Proposed New Model • Parking Initiates Pedestrian Sequence Parking is offset to one side of the building. Office workers are gathered together as they come to and leave from the building. The landscape can now come immediately adjacent to the building. This offers picturesque views from the interior. • Landscape Promenade Articulation of the topography and extensive planting animate the flow of people from car to work. People interact with the natural environment and enjoy the positive attributes of the suburban work experience. • Form Creates Civic Space The building form generates a grand plaza that becomes a destination upon arrival by car. This entrance can be clearly seen from the road, creating a strong address for the project. The scale is civic in nature and generates social discourse among users. Leed Platinum Utilizing the following attributes, among others, the project is pursuing LEED certification. Most of this falls within good building practices, a state-of-the art façade design, and environmental responses. None are overtly aesthetic in nature. Much care and consideration has been used to be as effective as possible within financial means. By opting not to tear down the existing building, but rather to reuse the existing steel structure, 50% of the core elements, floor plates, and roof deck, waste is considerably reduced and valuable resources saved. The building is truly a recycled building, one brought up to current codes, standards of efficiency, function, and improved place making. Kohn Pedersen Fox Hugh Trumbull Hugh Trumbull is a design architect with more than 19 years of professional experience. He currently works on an array of international projects with Kohn Pedersen Fox. Hugh leads teams on large scale mixed use, commercial, hospitality, residential and master planning projects, ranging in size from 100,000 to 10 million square feet. His projects have won numerous awards including a National AIA Honor Award and a HKIA Architecture Award of Merit in Sustainable Design. Hugh received both his Master and Bachelor of Architecture degrees from Cornell University. He has taught various design studios and frequently serves as guest critic on design juries for the New York and New Jersey Chapters of AIA, at Columbia University, Parsons School of Design, Cornell University, and the University of Nevada – Las Vegas.