Jumping trends, balancing work styles, and understanding fundamental changes are ways that office architects must now approach a task they all face — finding the connection between workplace design and employee productivity. For that really is what office design in today’s corporate landscape is about. It’s a landscape where CEOs of Fortune 500s and startups alike have accepted that to boost bottom-line results, they must realign work environments to stimulate Generation Y employees impacted by globalization, urbanization, and the distracting pleasures of Silicon Valley. That challenge exists whether a company works out of Manhattan or Charlotte, North Carolina, as the companies described here to do. Each of these office architects understood that challenge. And rather than looking for a universal office design template, they carefully researched a client’s workforce to find what fits and what doesn’t. The results? Practical solutions to workplace realities and office interiors beyond compare.

Top Architects

10) ADW Architects

Featured Architects: John Watson, AIA, Robert Lauer, AIA, and Jim Powell, AIA
Address: 2815 Six Coliseum Centre Drive, Suite 500, Charlotte, NC 28217

“Everything we do is inspired by our belief that spaces shape our lives.” This quote from ADW Architects’ website sums up the firm’s belief that its passion for innovative design solutions explains its 40 years of success. Since founding in 1977, the Charlotte-based firm has been honored with more than 25 design awards. It has also been busy perfecting interior design, architectural, and master planning projects nationwide. The firm’s portfolio is diversified; it has developed expertise in LEED-certified public safety, civic, educational, entertainment, mixed-use, and faith-based projects — just to name a few. Managing Principals John Watson, Robert Lauer and Jim Powell focus on sustainable design. The firm is a member of the US Green Building Council. Clients include the Coca-Cola Bottling Company and the University of North Carolina.

Featured Projects
Best Impressions Caterers had 11k square feet of office and catering kitchen space that needed interior work. ADW designed offices, tasting rooms, a large double catering kitchen, and a warehouse for the company’s Charlotte location.
Coca-Cola Bottling Company’s 8,040-square-foot office space on West Morehead Street in Charlotte needed a major overhaul. The building is part of the National Register of Historic Places. The structure was built in 1929 and had undergone only minor upgrades since then. ADW designed an executive floor with a boardroom, an amphitheater-style auditorium with the main wall decoration displaying silhouettes of the company’s signature soda bottle, a video conference area, offices lining the perimeter, and a multi-purpose meeting room. The project not only aroused the interest of Westside business types, it also received the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Community Enhancement Award for Historic Preservation.

9) Merriman Schmitt

Featured Architects: Steve Schmitt, AIA, NCARB
Address: 610 East Morehead St., Charlotte, NC 28202

This nationally recognized firm had a local start. It began in 1996 as an affiliate to Merriman Associates Architects of Dallas, Texas. Since then, co-founders Jerry Merriman and Steve Schmitt have led their company’s designs of close to 40 million square feet of commercial, corporate, industrial, and retail space. And that number doesn’t include the millions of square feet of interiors on which the firm has built its reputation. The company describes its practice as “generalist with experience in a broad range of build-to-suit and spec project types,” focusing on Class A Office and commercial projects. Schmitt is still MSA’s president. He received his bachelor’s in architecture from Virginia Tech. He is a member of the AIA, NCARB, Urban Land Institute, International Code Council, and US Green Building Council. MSA’s innovative corporate projects in Charlotte are frequently the subject of write-ups in local newspapers and business journals.

Featured Projects
MSA designed the Charlotte corporate headquarters of industry leader CPI Security when the security and home technology company wanted an expanded facility to optimize its already excellent customer service. The project, completed in 2015, involved designing the 120k-square-foot building with state-of-the-art technological systems based on hurricane- and blast-resistant ratings. The structure includes separate units for training and research and development. A 5 Diamond, U.L.-listed central station controls the alarms. Lakemont East is the 201k-square-foot building in Fort Mill’s 864-acre Lakemont Industrial Park that MSA designed with the help of Crescent Communities, an industrial developer known for trendy mixed-use projects. A key feature of MSA’s design was a 32-foot ceiling to attract next-generation warehouse and manufacturing tenants. MSA’s LEED expertise was sought by general contractor Myers & Chapman when Celgard, a world leader in battery separator technology, retained it to build its new high-profile plant in nearby Concord. The 150k-square-foot project was completed in 2011.

8) C Design

Featured Architects: Robert C. Crane Jr, AIA, and Gary A. Beal, AIA
Address: 1000 West Morehead Street Suite 170, Charlotte, NC

The C Design team works out of the historic Boxer Building on West Morehead Street in Uptown Charlotte’s Third Ward. The firm was founded by Managing Principal Robert C. Crane, Jr., AIA, who still maintains a laser focus as his team’s visionary and operations leader. Crane studied architecture at Iowa State University. He is registered in four states and has developed expertise in workplace design and renovation, transportation planning, and higher education enhancements. Principal Gary A. Beal, AIA, obtained his bachelor’s in architecture from the University of Tennessee. He functions as a project manager, supervising the firm’s high-end projects. Beal was the 1994 recipient of an Award of Merit from the American Institute of Architects. The firm was recognized on Business Leader Magazine’s Top 50 Entrepreneurs. It has received numerous Design Honor Awards from Charlotte AIA.

Featured Projects
In 2013, the firm completed a $800k workplace renovation for the Charlotte office and showroom of Office Environments, Inc. C Design partnered with the client to understand its vision for the 20,300-square-foot space. The project involved a sleek overhaul of the company’s video conference meeting rooms, teaming areas, café, hospitality area, and a showroom that followed the open work/meeting space theme. Another project completed in 2013 was the design of Foodbuy, LLC’s corporate headquarters. The $10.5M project was done in six phases and involved renovating 20k square feet of space. When finished, Foodbuy’s CEO praised the firm’s success at creating a high-performing environment that is functional and matches Foodbuy’s corporate culture. For Compass Group, a national foodservice leader, C Design completed a $3.5M renovation of a 130k-square-foot facility in Charlotte. The project received the 2014 ABC Eagle Award and LEED-CI certification for glass-front offices, low-wall workstations, and centralized break rooms with modern amenities.

7) WGM Design Inc

Featured Architects: William G. Monroe, III, AIA, LEED AP, and Sean P. DeLapp, Assoc. AIA
Address: 2907 Providence Road, Suite 304, Charlotte, NC 28211

Although Charlotte-based WGM Design has grown an impressive client base since its founding in 1988, the firm isn’t looking to expand its team much beyond 15 or so employees. Doing so would mean that founder William G. Monroe, III, AIA, LEED AP, and Vice President Sean P. DeLapp, Assoc. AIA, could not give each client the personal attention that has created the firm’s solid reputation for excellence. Master planning and design of corporate headquarters, independent schools and churches are the firm’s specialties that have brought in clients like Blue Cross Blue Shield, Duke Energy, Time Warner Cable, Wayne Brothers Headquarters, Providence Day School and Myers Park United Methodist Church. Monroe obtained a Master of Architecture from North Carolina State University. He has served as Chairman of the AIA/AGC Committee, as a Board Member of NAIOP Charlotte, and as President of the American Institute of Architects North Carolina Chapter.

Featured Projects
WGM has also been working with many international companies that are opening US headquarters in the Charlotte area, including Atlas Copco (Swedish), Saertex (German), Orange Bakery (Japanese), Continental (German), Keer (Chinese) and most recently the Daumer Group (Barcelona). Their interiors are designed with “Workplace of the Future” principles combining European and American sustainability features that enhance the environment for its employees. To complete the 95k-square foot US headquarters building of software company Enovia (France), WGM designed the first three story tilt-up structure in NC. Bill Monroe stated that “working on projects with international clients is very challenging and good communications is a must. Luckily the “language” of design is the same everywhere, so achieving award winning design projects while learning from other cultures is especially rewarding. Also the occasional business trip I have taken over the years to Sweden, France and Spain is quite nice”

6) Liquid Design

Featured Architects: Mike Lee Standley, AIA, and Michael Williams
Address: 1430 South Mint Street, Studio #105, Charlotte, NC 28203

Liquid Design’s principal Mike Lee Standley, AIA, believes that architecture should blend art and science without flaw. Along with Principal Michael Williams, Standley leads a small firm that has built a big client base ever since its founding in 2000. Williams was named one of 2007’s “40 Under 40” by Building Design and Construction magazine. Williams obtained his bachelor’s in architecture and urban planning from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. He was an adjunct design professor at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte’s School of Architecture. Lee studied architecture at Virginia Tech and interned at Skidmore Owens and Merrill. Over the firm’s 17 years, it has been honored with the AIA People’s Choice Award in 2014, the AIA North Carolina Design Award in 2013, and the AIA Charlotte Honor Design Award in 2009. The firm’s projects have been mentioned in articles by Greater Charlotte Biz Magazine, Uptown Magazine, and the Associated Press. Clients include NASCAR, State Farm, and NBA legend Michael Jordan.

Featured Projects
Insurance giant State Farm reached out to Liquid Design when it needed a crisp overhaul for the 2,800 square feet it was transforming from a refurbished warehouse into an office. The Charlotte office’s lobby is painted in red and white, the colors of State Farm’s famous logo. Heels.com/Just Fabs retained the firm to design the 20k square feet of space it rented in Charlotte’s NASCAR tower. The floor plan features ceiling-to-floor windows. The lobby has barstool seating and a cylindrical glass-encased conference room. For the 80k square feet of existing warehouse space that technology provider Velocitor Solutions was adapting into a corporate headquarters in Charlotte, Liquid Design created a façade that features a custom-made, ornamental fiberglass rainscreen. The project that fetched the firm an AIA Charlotte Honor Design Award was its work on the 28-mile, $36M US National Whitewater Center, the world’s largest re-circulating whitewater facility and an official training site of the US Olympic Team.

5) LS3P Associates Ltd.

Featured Architects: Thompson E. Penney, FAIA, LEED AP, and Jeffrey C. Floyd, AIA, LEED AP
Address: 227 W. Trade Street, Suite 700, Charlotte, NC 28202

When Frank Lucas started his architecture firm in Charleston, South Carolina, he was a sole practitioner working in a one-room office. Today, that firm – LS3P – has more than 300 employees in eight locations across three states and a reputation that has turned Fortune 500 clients into repeat customers. Along the way, there were mergers: with TBA2 Associates LLC in 1999, with Boney Architects in 2004, with Neal Prince Architects in 2011, and finally with Hubbard Architecture and Dawson Architects in 2016. They have also received more than 490 design awards and a description by the editor of Design Intelligence that LS3P is “the most local of the global firms and the most ‘world-class of the locals.” The firm has also been ranked 56 on the list of Top 100 Interior Architecture & Design Firms in the US. Clients include MetLife, Duke Energy, Citigroup, Electrolux, Bissell, Lowe’s, and Wells Fargo.

Featured Projects
LS3P handled the planning, design, furniture systems, and interior architecture for Lowe’s Headquarters Customer Service Center South in Mooresville. The project, completed in 2009, totaled 734K square feet of space. The master plan included two, seven-story towers that are interconnected at each level. A third level features 100-foot-long pedestrian bridges are connected to parking decks large enough for 1,376 vehicles. The firm handled Class ‘A’ office buildings for Harris & Boyle’s offices at Ballantyne Corporate Park. Two 10-story towers had a total of 542k square feet that needed sustainable design strategies, such as a filtering stormwater runoff, reuse of water for landscape irrigation, bicycle storage and special parking for fuel-efficient vehicles, 100% recycled steel structures, and white rooftops to reduce solar gain. Not only did the project achieve LEED Gold certification, it also received the NAIOP 2011 National Sustainable Development Award and the BOMA 2010 award for International Suburban Office Park of the Year.

4) Jenkins Peer Architects

Featured Architects: Edward L. Jenkins, AIA, and Gerard W. Peer, FAIA
Address: 112 South Tryon Street, Suite 1300, Charlotte, NC 28202

Since its founding in 1978, this Charlotte-based firm has been honored with more than 30 awards for design and construction excellence. JPA’s client-focused approach started with founding Principal Edward L. Jenkins, AIA, who obtained his bachelor’s in architecture from North Carolina State University. His co-founder, Gerard W. Peer, FAIA, also studied at NCSU before going on to obtain a Master in Architecture from Harvard University. Both men shared a passion for renovating historic landmarks throughout North and South Carolina. JPA’s portfolio and client base have expanded over the years to include wide-ranging services for clients in the corporate, industrial, civic, and cultural institutions; nonprofits; and higher education sectors. The firm is especially proud to have received South Atlantic Region AIA Honor Awards for its work on the NBC News International Headquarters and the Merrill Lynch Realty Headquarters, both in Charlotte.

Featured Projects
Among its more high-profile projects was JPA’s design concept for Apple, Inc.’s Regional Support Center in Charlotte, which grabbed the North Carolina AIA Honor Award. The Center’s glass curtain-wall allows all personnel a special view of the natural woodland setting. Interior features of the 110k-square-foot building include open spaces, partitioned workstations, and a vaulted skylight at the building’s entry and main lobby. Design and construction were completed in just 92 days. JPA received a Preservation Award from the Historic Charlotte Society for its renovation of a four-story, 82k-square-foot corporate office of the Foundation for the Carolinas in Charlotte. The renovation included an update of the building’s electrical system, the design of commercial and catering kitchens for special events, event space on rooftop terraces, and an open reception area and gallery for paintings and art glass that the Foundation showcases.

3) ai Design Group

Featured Architects: Wes Jones, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP BD+C, Kim Marks, AIA, NCARB, John Weller, AIA, LEED AP, NCARB, and Ryan Doherty, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP BD+C
Address: 330 South Tryon Street, Suite 500, Charlotte, NC 28202

Founding principals of ai Design Group – Wes Jones, Kim Marks, and John Weller — combined their six decades of experience to start the firm in 2003. Still based in Charlotte, the company works nationwide for an impressive list of Fortune 500 companies and national concerns, such as Sonic Automotive, Spectrum Properties, AAA, and Speedway Motorsports. Today, it is one of the largest firms in North Carolina. In 2016, the firm merged with Progressive AE, which was based in Michigan, to enhance the firm with an expanded portfolio of architecture, interior design, and consultation services. In 2014, AIA Charlotte named Wes Jones a Citizen Architect to honor his contributions to the local community. In 2015, Associate Principal Ryan Doherty received the Charlotte 40 Under 40 Award to recognize his work, particularly as an expert in automotive service and retail design.

Featured Projects
When cable television giant Time Warner Cable decided to consolidate its New York City and Charlotte operations, it chose ai Design Group to handle the 282k-square-foot upfit. The project was done in two phases. A cafeteria, conference area, boardroom, training center, and main lobby were fused into one multi-functional zone. The work environment consists of offices lining the perimeter and workstations on each floor where teams can collaborate or relax.
For client AREVA, the firm completed a 29k-square-foot renovation of the French energy company’s U.S. operations center at Innovation Park. The goal was to transform the building into AREVA’s North American headquarters. This required expanding into an adjacent building to add more space for meeting rooms, workstations, and a training facility. It took only four weeks for the firm to freshen up office space at 200 South Tryon so the owner could attract tenants away from nearby buildings. The lower-level renovation added new lighting fixtures, signage, a main elevator lobby, and food vendor areas with a lounge. Rooms on the upper floors felt more spacious with the addition of tall mirrors and special lighting fixtures. For South Africa-based industrial brand management conglomerate Barloworld’s new North American headquarters in Charlotte, ai had to design a workplace that combined administrative and executive functions into a seamless open setting, complete with an oversized training facility, conference center, and lounge.

2) Studios Architecture

Featured Architects: Darryl Roberson, FAIA, Erik Sueberkrop, FAIA, Thomas Yee, AIA, LEED AP, and Melissa Duffy, AIA, LEED AP
Address: 405 Howard Street, Suite 488, San Francisco, CA 94105

International design firm Studios is still based in San Francisco, where it was founded by former Principals Darryl Roberson, FAIA, and Erik Sueberkrop, FAIA, LEED AP in 1985. Today, 20 principals run the company, whose projects are so high-profile they are often the subject of articles in the New York Times and national business and design journals. In addition to San Francisco, Studios has offices in New York, Los Angeles, Washington DC, Paris, and Mumbai. Though originally known for its work with Silicon Valley technology giants, Studios now handles multimillion dollar projects all over the Americas, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Roberson is highly revered by the Fortune 500 companies who counted on him to create their innovative interiors. So groundbreaking were his designs that Roberson is credited with helping to invent the field of commercial interior architecture in the US. The firm’s long and impressive list of clients includes Sony, Coca-Cola, Google, Dow Jones, Microsoft, Pfizer, Samsung, and Apple.

Featured Projects
Studios have impacted the metro Charlotte area in two big ways. The first was its response to insurance goliath MetLife’s vision of a workplace where information and ideas could flow easily. The firm designed what is known as “MetLife Square,” a 364k-square-foot space for MetLife US Retail Headquarters in Charlotte. The project was completed by 2015 when it fetched AIA Charlotte’s Merit Award. A holistic approach is obvious by the way Studios connected the entrance, ground floor lobby, and third-floor employee entry. An opulent staircase links these spaces. Work areas consist of “neighborhoods” for individual work, “homes” for collaboration, and multiple break rooms. A perimeter allowing for maximum daylight and Peanuts art by Tom Everhart enliven the interior throughout. In nearby Cary, Studios designed a 400k-square-foot space for MetLife’s Global Technology Campus. The relaxed campus setting theme runs throughout two buildings. There is a coffee bar, fitness center, and outdoor basketball court. Dozens of formal and informational meeting rooms show MetLife’s commitment to a team-focused, flexible work environment.

1) Gensler

Featured Architects: M Arthur Gensler Jr, FAIA, FIIDA, RIBA, Diane Hoskins, FAIA, NCARB, Kenneth P. Baker, IIDA, Assoc. AIA, and Jordan Goldstein, AIA, IIDA, LEED AP
Address: 214 North Tryon Street Suite 2320 Charlotte, NC 28202

With more than 5,000 employees and 44 locations in the Americas, the Middle East, Australia, Europe, and Asia, the largest architecture firm in the world is unique among design firms if only for the sheer scope of its practice areas. Gensler was founded in 1965, and its home office is in San Francisco. The Charlotte office has 18 employees as of 2014, and that same year, the Charlotte Business Journal ranked it as the 4th largest firm in the city. For 35 consecutive years, the firm has topped Interior Design magazine’s list of architecture giants. Since 2016, the company has been ranked first on ENR’s Top 150 Global Design Firms, ranked number 25 on Business Insider’s Top 100 Creators list, ranked number one on Architectural Record’s Top 300 firms, and ranked Most Admired U.S. Firm on Building Design’s 2016 World Architecture list. In 2016, Founding Principal Art Gensler, FAIA, FIIDA, RIBA, received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Design Futures Council.

Featured Projects
It’s been described as “NASCAR’s Cool 8th Floor,” a new office in the NASCAR Hall of Fame to launch the stock car racing icon’s Digital Media division in Charlotte. The upfit reflects Gensler’s belief that breakthrough ideas come from understanding client needs. In the case of NASCAR, that meant a fun and fast work environment to mirror the brand’s sport. The 25k-square-foot open floor plan has race track layouts painted onto the walls and a large Daytona race poster, while a dozen screens monitor NASCAR’s trending topics. Meeting areas have leather couches, scooters, and a foosball table. The simple lighting system was designed to contrast the otherwise high-tech environment. An editorial pit of connecting cubicles allows the work team to watch race coverage right from their seats. Turner Construction — the company that built Madison Square Garden — chose Gensler to design its Charlotte office. The Park Wood location was designed to support the multi-functional and collaborative work of teams for the largest construction management company in the US. A distinctive feature is the full-height windows that flood the work area natural light. Gensler’s unique design solutions fit perfectly with Electric Power and Gas Company’s need to renovate its Charlotte location with enough modern flair to attract a new generation of top talent. The open office concept continues throughout the space. Separate work areas are connected by a seamless open office concept. The crowning jewel of this location was Gensler’s design of sloping glass walls to cover the lobby, which is connected to a second floor by a grand, winding staircase.