Christopher Aker, CEO of cloud-hosting company Linode, could have built a new headquarters anywhere he darned well pleased. Instead, he chose to put nearly $10 million into making Philadelphia’s 1906 Corn Exchange National Bank a high-powered magnet that would attract and retain high-tech talent for his fast-growing company.
The new headquarters combines Beaux Arts authenticity (“It has so much character,” says Aker) with high-tech buzz. Located next to the Betsy Ross House in the historic Old City, it has become a lively addition to Philadelphia’s N3rd (“nerd”) Street tech and design hub.
The project team, led by design firm Ballinger, negotiated with city building code and historic preservation officials to obtain compromises that would meet Linode’s spatial needs and municipal life safety requirements.
A narrow, non-code-compliant staircase was extended to the basement to meet egress requirements. A sprinkler system was installed throughout the building as a concession to keeping certain original elements.
A secured-access third floor with open offices under an original skylight. The interior windows can be opened for acoustical flexibility.
The city’s historic commission wanted to make sure that exterior lighting fixtures would not detract from the historic appearance of the building. The project team used existing conduits to channel power to new light fixtures mounted along existing joint lines, thereby reducing the number of penetrations in the historic façade.
The entire project team was composed of locally based firms, including conservators and specialty crafts workers who restored materials and windows. Conservators used scagliola, a centuries-old technique in which plaster is mixed by hand to create imitation marble, to replace tiles in the basement vault area, a popular gathering spot. (They also kept the original vault door in place.)
To retain the existing substrate of the exterior while blending it with adjacent surfaces, the team came up with a unique approach. Instead of removing patched areas, they used in-painting with a mineral silicate paint to match the appropriate color and texture of the surface. Conservators then toned the patches, using numerous colors to blend with the variable shades of the surrounding limestone.
In the end, Aker’s recruitment strategy worked. Linode has experienced a 100% growth in its workforce since relocating from the suburbs.
GOLD AWARD WINNER
BUILDING TEAM Ballinger (submitting firm, architect/SE) Atlantis Investments LLC (owner) HPE Group (MEP) Materials Conservation Collaborative (conservator) The Lighting Practice (lighting design) C. Erickson and Sons (GC) DETAILS 22,300 sf Total cost $10 million Construction time December 2016 to February 2018 Delivery method CM at risk