Case Study – Visualization / Collaboration Center


An oil company client needed to implement new well technology (a software/hardware solution) to help optimize production from several gathering centers within the country, consolidate the data on a daily basis, and track production in such a manner that real-time (short-loop) analysis could occur, and longer-loop decisions could be made in a shared fashion.  To enable this level of understanding, the owner wanted a state of the art Collaboration Center where data visualization, gesturing activities, and strategic oversight could occur.  Smith LaRock Architecture’s experiences in designing such mission-critical spaces was requested.  A process to locate the facility in an opportune location, define the constraints & opportunities of the space, collect the needs and requirements, and plan the facility were undertaken.  The success criteria for the project were expressed: in terms of good situational awareness and human factors (ergonomics, lighting, acoustics), flexibility of the space/furniture/technology, biometric security creating both observable and secure access control.  All this while meeting the client’s cultural sensibilities about design, presentation, integration with         technology, materiality, and workflow.

Design Process:

SLA applied it’s DistanceDesign techniques whereby real-time 3D modeling with our client’s users was introduced to model and communicate potential design solutions. Needs and requirements were defined by the entire team to develop a shared vision of the operational philosophy desired.  Leading edge technology was introduced, compared & contrasted with their needs, and a listing of equipment items was prepared.  This included BARCO LED screens, 70” multi-touch LCD screens, custom technology tables with vertical lift LCD trolleys, biometric security devices, and telepresence systems, built items like turntables for each tech table coordinated with the low-profile access floor, SmartGlass (electronic dipole glass) walls for privacy, concealed microphones/speaker systems, LED lighting systems and integrated control systems capable of running all the specialized systems from centralized touchpads were coordinated into the design. The owner’s workflow and design sensibilities demanded a very organic, dynamic looking plan to be created within a portion of an existing building.  Once the technology needing integration into the design was known, the general design parti was prepared in a 3D format and the owner was virtually walked  through the space. Adjustments were made based upon comments, and the project design basis was established: all parties had achieved the shared vision for the project, everyone knew what to expect, and SLA proceeded with the  design documentation so that the project contractor could also proceed with  implementation.


An organic, flowing space was selected, complete with natural materials, a water feature and indoor plants to provide visual relief and address the regional and cultural importance of water, as well as to introduce positive ions to the air and soften the hard-edge structures to further help reduce the stresses of today’s fast-paced virtual office.

As one enters the Collaboration Center, the internal meandering path encourages informal interactions, views, and incidental contact between people, an important aspect of collaboration space design.  Wall transparency aids in defining the range of work zones and supporting the varying activities to further enable  communication and teamwork.  The spaces, lighting, acoustics, mechanical systems and materials were designed to support the people, and improve greater efficiencies, communication, collaboration, and team morale.

Studies show that 70% to 80% of all dollars spent to design, construct, staff & operate a facility over a twenty-five year lifecycle are spent on the people working in that building through their compensation, benefits, training, and insurance, among other benefits (Bosti Associates 2001).  We see from this study that it’s the people that drive the facility costs while producing the revenues; durability of materials, proper fixtures furnishings and equipment that are constructed/fabricated to last are incredibility important to the life-cycle costing of an installation, but knowing that the design must serve the people is paramount.

People are the asset from which all corporate profitability stems, but the virtual environment can also isolate people through emotionless interactions with data; proper workspaces that enable & create opportunities for interaction and collaboration counter that pitfall.  The designed space, no matter the function, must support the social and cultural connections that bind the group and organization, providing a forum for people to collaborate, enjoy fellowship, experience learning in various meaningful ways while enhancing business performance, attracting and retaining personnel, thereby increasing efficiency and profitability for the company.

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