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Walmart combines fitness and wellness in associates’ center that’s part of its new Home Office plan

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Walmart combines fitness and wellness in associates’ center that’s part of its new Home Office plan

Duda | Paine’s design leads visitors on a “journey.”


By John Caulfield, Senior Editor | June 21, 2022
A southwest view of the Whole Health & Fitness Center. Images: Duda|Paine Architects
A southwest view of the Walton Whole Health & Fitness Center in Bentonville, Ark., illustrates how the building and nature intersect. Images: Duda|Paine Architects

Walmart’s new Home Office complex, to be located on 350 acres in Bentonville, Ark., has been designed to combine a creative and innovative work environment that supports the retail giant’s associates, their families, and the greater Northwest Arkansas community. The complex will encompass 12 office buildings, two amenity buildings, parking decks with 1,000 spaces each, an AC Hotel by Marriott, a food hall, biking and walking trails, and other connections to nature via natural lighting, mass timber construction, warm interior finishes, and views of the outdoors.

The Home Office is being built in phases through 2025, and on April 6 Walmart unveiled the final plans and preview of the programming for its two amenities buildings—Walton Family Whole Health & Fitness Center, and The Child Care Center—which have been in the works since 2019 and are scheduled for completion next year.

The 73,000-sf Child Care Center, which PageSoutherlandPage designed, will support up to 500 of Walmart employees’ children, ranging from infants to pre-K. It will be located across the street from the 360,000-sf, 16-acre Walton Family Whole Health & Fitness Center, which will feature three pools, indoor/outdoor tennis courts, volleyball and basketball courts, yoga and other exercise studios.

MUCH MORE THAN A GYM

The Center's Natatorium
The Center's natatorium is glass enclosed, allowing visitors to watch swimmers or just relax.
 

It would be a mistake, though, to think of the Whole Health & Fitness Center simply as a gigantic gym space, says Turan Duda, Founding Partner with Duda|Paine Architects, the North Carolina-based firm that is the architect on the health and fitness facility. Duda notes that from the facility's north and south entrances, associates and other visitors will embark on a “journey” with different pathways that expose the facility’s various “choices” of activities.

The concept for this new campus, Duda explains, was driven by the Walton family, and especially Alice Walton and Whole Health Institute she founded in 2019, which stresses peer-to-peer relationships and interactions. Visibility and transparency are emphasized, but in nonthreatening ways that suggest new wellness avenues to the facility's visitors. For example, acupuncture will be performed in a large room within the facility where other people can watch and evaluate whether such treatment might be right for them.

“Whole health is more of an encompassing concept,” elaborates Walt Cooper, CEO of the Whole Health Institute. “It is purposely designed to give you the opportunity to pause and reflect on what you need most.” He adds that “whole health” addresses physical, mental, emotional, and social factors.

CONNECTING WITH NATURE

The Center's Promenade
The Center's Promenade gives visitors a preview of what's being offered, and also looks onto a giant outdoor greenway.
 

The building’s connection to nature “is a key to its design,” says Amanda Cronick, AIA, LEED Green Assoc., and Associate Principal with Duda|Paine, who oversaw the programming for this project. At the facility's southern porch will be a central space called The Promenade, “where you’ll see all of the choices available,” says Duda. The Promenade is distinguished by its materials (mostly wood), and by “Big Nature,” a giant greenway with water feature that the space looks out onto.

Duda says his firm has learned, from a similar project in Winter Park, Fla., that wellness is “multidimensional” and can encompass everything from dance lessons as an element of marriage counseling, to “wellness pods”—areas for repose and contemplation. A wellness pavilion inside the facility will offer yoga and meditation classes and other amenities such as a kitchen where associates can learn to cook and eat healthier.

The building's second-floor commons
This rendering of the Center's second-floor commons shows how the building is designed to provide its patrons with pathways to different amenities and activities.
 

And sometimes, wellness is just about taking a break: The Whole Health & Fitness Center includes a Youth Activity Center where parents can drop off their kids for a few hours while they work out. Summer camps and after-school programs will be available, too.

Along with Duda|Paine Architects, the Building Team for the Home Office includes Gensler (executive architect and LEED coordinator), Arup (MEP), Fast + Epp (SE), Walter P Moore (CE), SWA Group (landscape architect), New Evolution Venture (fitness center design), ISP Design (lighting consultant), ACI (accessibility consultant), SLR International Consultant (acoustical consultant), Aquatic Design Consultants (aquatics consultant), 4b Technology (AV/IT security consultant), Curtain Wall Design & Consulting (building enclosure/waterproofing), Jensen Hughes (code consultant),  Ricca Design Studios, Blau + Associates (food service), Lerch Bates (vertical transportation consultant), Willow (BIM coordination), and IES (energy modeling).

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