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Triple Threat

Monday, September 17, 2018


ZGF Architects LLP, Randy Mcgee, Project Architect ; Arch11, EJ Meade, Principal Architect, Kimball Hobbs, Project Manager  
Photography by Raul Garcia  
Pearl Izumi North American Corporate Headquarters
by Camille LeFevre

In the Rocky Mountain state of Colorado, outdoor recreation is fueling the state’s economy—with such non-motorized, clean-energy sports as mountain biking and road cycling, triathlons and running. Kayaking, canoeing and river rafting, mountain climbing, hiking, swimming and outdoor group sports are immensely popular, too. More than 70 percent of the state’s residents (not to mention visitors) participate in outdoor recreation each year, according to a 2017 report from the Outdoor Industry Association, a Boulder-based trade association. 

In fact, the report also noted that outdoor recreation is a $28-billion-a-year industry in Colorado. More than 229,000 jobs are tied to the state’s outdoor-recreation industry, and all of that recreating contributes $2 billion in state and local tax revenue every year. In comparison, the oil, gas and mining sector claimed only 58,000 jobs in Colorado in 2017, the report adds.  

No surprise, then, that when Pearl Izumi, which was founded in Japan more than 60 years ago, was searching for a headquarters site in the United States, the sports-apparel company chose Louisville, Colorado. Like its outdoor-loving and athletic customers, Pearl Izumi envisioned an equally high-performing work environment for its employees, in order to support its longtime goal of developing (according to the company’s website) the world’s “foremost line of technical-performing and quality-manufactured sports apparel.”  

To create Pearl Izumi’s new North American headquarters, the Boulder-based Arch11 collaborated with ZGF Architects LLP out of Portland, Oregon. During master planning, says EJ Meade, Principal Architect, Arch11, the design team came up with a simple yet elegant, modern and open-plan “design-barn” concept—in homage to the site’s agrarian roots—that’s perfectly suited to the company’s desire for connectivity between departments, which include research and prototyping, design, sales, marketing and finance.  

The new 54,000-square-foot energy-efficient structure also nestles perfectly within its eight-acre site in a business park at the foot of the dramatic Flatirons just outside of Boulder. Moreover, the design team strategically positioned the building along the Coal Creek bike and running path that connects the communities of Boulder County. The location provides quick and easy access for testing and commuting year-round, in order to showcase the company’s commitment to its triple-threat “Ride-Tri-Run” (cycling, triathlons, running) product lines.  

With an emphasis on research and development, prototyping and testing—along with a commitment to exercising outside 365 days a year in all weather conditions—Pearl Izumi wanted its building to have a connection to the outdoors and reflect a design that dialogues with the site’s topography. “From the beginning our concept was to rebuild the hill, not build on the hill at the site,” Meade explains, “so aesthetically we wove the building into its location rather than placing it on the site. Also, from a sustainability point of view, the building is nestled into the hillside, opening to the south, which really allowed us to control the heat gain and loss in the building.”  

The team had the long, low building clad in a minimal, agrarian palette of natural weathering steel, concrete, glass and wood planks recycled from a nearby snow fence, so the headquarters emerges organically from the ground plane and follows the site’s gentle topography. For ease of construction and improved energy performance, the building’s structure is comprised of structural insulated panels (SIPs) within an exposed steel frame. The inside is purposely rough. Exposed ductwork and framing, and walls of oriented strand board (OSB), create an industrial yet warm interior.  

The building’s elongated floor plan is oriented outward so that “inside, wherever you are working, you have a view to the landscape,” Meade says. Large window apertures pop up along the sweeping metal roof forms—including triplicate clerestories on the south side, representing Pearl Izumi’s “Ride-Tri-Run” motto—to provide natural ventilation and abundant natural light deep into interior spaces. Computerized daylighting and occupancy sensors turn on LED lighting only when needed. Finishes help attenuate sound in the open space.  

The headquarters’ workspace features open and transparent offices along with shared amenities that include a fitness room, a “living room” or gathering space, collaboration spaces, break areas, bike room and locker rooms. By limiting vertical separation between spaces the design naturally encourages interdepartmental exchange. Outside the building are a protected courtyard, porches and an amphitheater, which extend the social and work spaces to the outdoors.  

magazine called out the headquarters building as one of its “7 Best Gear Offices in the World,” citing the structure’s connections with the natural surroundings and the ways in which the design intentionally promotes employees’ active outdoor lifestyles. Locally, the design team received a bit of push back from the community, particularly when they suggested using rusted steel for the roof. “But now they see the texture and color as part of the surrounding landscape,” Meade says.  

The modern building with the rugged exterior has also “set a new standard for the level and style of development in the business park,” Meade adds, while adding a significant new building to Arch11’s portfolio. “We were on the cusp of developing a larger body of commercial work. This project launched that for us. We’re now doing projects of similar size, design and materiality in Texas and throughout Colorado.”  

In designing the Pearl Izumi North American Corporate Headquarters, Arch11 and ZGF’s design respects the company’s Japanese heritage, celebrates the natural beauty of Colorado through the seasons, and exemplifies employees’ passion for outdoor sports—yet another triple threat of design excellence. 


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