Paul Hauser, an associate principal with Vision 3 Architects, was the project manager for its award-winning adaptation of a Pawtucket building suite for the new headquarters of Pet Food Experts. The project won an Honor Award for the interiors category in the most recent American Institute of Architects - Rhode Island competition. He also was the project manager for the New England Treatment Access Medical Marijuana Dispensary in Northampton, Mass., which won People’s Choice Runner Up among all design submissions. A graduate of Roger Williams University’s graduate degree program in architecture, Hauser responded recently to questions posed by the Providence Business News.
PBN: The Pet Food Experts project modernized an existing floor of a building. What did you start with in terms of space and rooms, and what did the client want created for the new space?
HAUSER: For the most part, this project was a complete demolition of the existing space. The existing restroom and elevator core remained, but the rest of the space was a clean slate. The client was interested in the idea of bringing nature into the space. Vision 3 teamed with an interior designer, Teresa Alden of Adlo Design, to implement an approach to the space utilizing a new trend in corporate-office architecture – biophilic design. Biophilic design was introduced throughout the project to bridge a relationship between the individuals and the environment. A direct connection to nature was achieved by maximizing employees’ exposure to natural light through space layout. An indirect connection was achieved with careful consideration and selection of interior colors, patterns and textures that feel natural and refreshing to staff members in their office environment.
PBN: The finished offices have a vibrant, modern look. What were some of the materials used in achieving this?
HAUSER: In addition to inspiring a physical connection to nature, biophilic design also inspired the purposeful selection of materials. As you enter the main lobby, employees and visitors are met by a reception desk clad in reclaimed wood and a large back-lit feature wall illustrating a birch forest scene. The carpet introduces patterns, colors and textures resembling a natural groundscape. A ceiling design representing an abstract sky with suspended curvilinear acoustic clouds is located above the central corridor that divides the main open office space. A living wall is located in the break room, and abundant live plants are scattered throughout the space, again providing staff with a figurative connection to outdoor space.
PBN: What was the most challenging aspect of that project?
HAUSER: Because of the large, open floor plan, we were challenged with trying to get natural light, or the feeling of natural light, deep into the space. Our approach to solve this challenge was the introduction of the ceiling element that was an abstract interpretation of a cloud ceiling. Linear light fixtures were installed along the length of the soffit, spreading light up, illuminating the curved ceiling clouds. This detail created an effect that feels like a large linear skylight directly in the middle of the open office area, where previously the natural light from the exterior windows was unable to penetrate into the space.
PBN: The NETA Regional Medical Marijuana Dispensary also was recognized by the AIA R.I. chapter. Is this the first dispensary you’ve designed and how did you approach the project?
HAUSER: Yes, this was the first of two dispensaries that we designed for NETA. We were recognized for the Northampton, Mass. dispensary. The other dispensary was located in Brookline, Mass. This was one of the more interesting projects that I've worked on in my career. The unique nature of the facility, and the limited number of precedents to study, presented design challenges and opportunities. The client approached us with the task of creating an inviting space that would comfort patients with a unique and innovative space that would move beyond the typical experience in most medical office spaces. They wanted a space that was inviting and comfortable – not unlike a coffee shop – but that also presented a professional and relaxing atmosphere for customers.
PBN: This, too, has a modern fresh look. Was the idea to not have it look like a hospital or a treatment center, but more of a retail setting?
HAUSER: I would describe the aesthetic as modern industrial. Details utilizing reclaimed wood planks and exposed raw structural steel and glass are repeated throughout the design. The materials are applied to clean, simple geometries emphasizing the textures and contrast in materiality. Careful detailing of steel angles, plates and tubes utilizing exposed welds and exposed mechanical fasteners further emphasize the industrial interior-design concept. The client emphasized that they did not want the space to feel at all like a medical office. A warm, comforting retail setting is a better comparison to the approach.