Photo © Timothy Hursley

Lamar Advertising Company

Eskew+Dumez+Ripple

Baton Rouge, Louisiana

By Lamar Anderson

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When the Baton Rouge, Louisiana–based billboard company Lamar Advertising outgrew its headquarters, finding another traditional office building would have been the natural next step. But a 1970s data center across the street hit the market, and management decided to make the leap—despite the building's closed-off precast-concrete facade and stingy allotment of windows. “You can imagine staff saying, 'What, we're going to move into that?' ” recalls architect Steve Dumez of the New Orleans–based firm Eskew+Dumez+Ripple (EDR). “It took a tremendous amount of vision to look at that building and say, 'This is going to be our new headquarters.'”

Choosing a frumpy building may seem like a puzzling move for a graphics company, but for CEO Sean Reilly, it was the interior that mattered. “It's not important for us to brag, but rather to create a space that makes our employees feel welcome,” Reilly says. The three-story, 115,000-square-foot building, which opened in March 2012, includes a large training room, open-plan workstations, a ground-floor cafeteria, and an outdoor patio shaded by oak trees.

To boost employee collaboration, EDR sought to unify the steel-and-precast-concrete structure's three levels into one light-filled space. The architects removed a central portion of the roof and upper floors and inserted a glazed open-air courtyard above a ground-level training room. To encourage chance encounters, they made taking the stairs an appealing option. A set of ipé-wood bleachers, with a stair linking the first and second floors, serves as a gathering spot and makes moving around the office inherently social. Glass rails preserve sightlines between departments.

The EDR team jazzed up the interiors by hanging items from Lamar's trove of vintage billboards, including early painted canvas specimens. For a mural on the ground floor, they screen-printed an image of a 1950s-era roadside scene onto aluminum signage panels.

By renovating the existing building instead of demolishing it and building new, Lamar saved 30 percent on construction costs. Since the move-in, the company estimates, employee collaboration has jumped 25 percent. “It gets us together more often and in different ways, and you never know where the conversation will go,” says Reilly.

Architect: Eskew+Dumez+Ripple — Steve Dumez, principal in charge

Size: 115,000 square feet

Cost: $13.8 million

Completion Date: March 2012

June 2013
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