Stimulating creativity and providing health benefits, art in architecture is rapidly gaining recognition as a valuable component to successful design. With this in mind, the integration of art became an intrinsic part of Overland’s design for the new home office of Grande Cheese Company in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. At the grand opening on July 9, 2016, the project was dedicated to the company’s associates past, present, and future. Art is so integral to the project that, without it, the vision of John Candela (Chairman) and Wayne Matzke (President and CEO)—to create “an organic, serendipitous workplace” that speaks to his high regard for Grande’s employees—would not have been fully realized. The art adds aesthetic value, promotes wellness, and reinforces the company’s principles, history, and future ambitions. As one Grande associate observed, “It brings life to the building and the associates.”
“The art program is the perfect complement to our new home office and research center. The colors are vibrant and the beauty is museum quality. Each piece provides distinctive messaging as seen uniquely in the eyes of the beholder. Our associates are amazed at the variety of art and the wide and diverse backgrounds of the many artists.” —Wayne Matzke, President and CEO, Grande Cheese Company
Art Is Good For You
To maintain optimal productivity, the brain is an organ that, like muscles, needs periods of rest. Nature is one way to provide rest for our minds and make us healthier. Can art have a similar effect? New science reveals that observing art benefits our brains and bodies beyond just enriching our lives. For instance, it decreases cortisol levels—the hormone responsible for stress—which can help alleviate chronic health issues. Art has a way of taking you to somewhere else. It shifts your brain into repose, allowing you to return to your task refreshed and more clearheaded. As Pablo Picasso said, “Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life.”
A Leap Of Faith
The art program for Grande’s home office was presented to the client early in the design process. Though a customized collection of artwork was not a part of John’s initial dream, he and the Grande leadership trusted the design team to explore the idea. We asked what they planned to bring from their old office to the new building and what parameters they would set on associates bringing things from home. In addition to well-being and inspiration, the proposed art program would alleviate office clutter.
Intrigued, they asked about our previous experience incorporating art in architecture. The South Texas Blood and Tissue Center, the University Health System Robert B. Green Campus, and The Bridge Homeless Assistance Center all involved commissioning artists to incorporate artwork into the designs as a means of promoting healing and wholeness.
Grande hired Overland to develop their art program (in addition to being their architect), which involved establishing the budget—typically 1-2% of the construction budget—and recommending the number of pieces and locations for each. Immediately Overland brought on Allison Hayes Lane, director of Olana Group, and a past consultant for us on the Salud-Arte: Art of Healing Program, who provided invaluable expertise and insight into the curation process.
Asking The Right Questions
Bringing nature into the building was a primary architectural design objective, and nature-inspired artwork would support this goal. Walking through a digital 3D model of the building from public to private spaces, our team discovered all conceivable locations for art, not knowing yet what exactly would populate each spot. For each site chosen, we asked questions about each potential piece: How big should it be? Should it be 2D or 3D? Should it be one large piece or a series of smaller pieces? Should it be vertical or horizontal? And where are possible homes for larger, more valuable commissioned pieces of art? Our investigation revealed hundreds of locations for art, fifty of which would be commissioned specifically for this endeavor. Once size and site were determined for each, the budget was allocated accordingly.
Gathering The Work
Finding this many pieces with specific dimensions, mediums, and palettes—all themed around nature—proved much more complex than anticipated. So Allison and Tim Blonkvist, Principal in Charge, contacted their associates in the art world, encouraging them to submit available artwork as well as proposals for commissioned pieces.
The most notable of the commissioned work was to be a sculpture located on the south lawn. An international competition called for artists to submit a resume with examples of their work for review. Sixty entries poured in. Overland and Olana Group narrowed the pool down to twenty-five artists then presented this selection to the client, who identified the five finalists. Each created a short video explaining the ideas behind their submission along with a maquette (a small-scale mock-up) that fit within our model of the building. The selection committee was then able to evaluate each maquette within the context of the digital model for the home office.
And The Winner Is
Douwe Blumberg from Indiana won the competition with his entry, A Greater Purpose, which aligned most with Grande’s philosophy and echoed the company’s aim to fulfill “a purpose greater than ourselves.”
“It captures and embodies our culture with majesty.” —Cindy Pantel, Associate, Grande Cheese Company
The second place finalist, Martin Donlin was commissioned to create Joy of Life to visually convey Grande’s values. It stands eighteen feet tall in the south-wing staircase and is made from hand-blown glass out of Berlin.
“[It is] a connection and reminder of what is important in life. It’s about people—how we work with and treat each other.” —Jeremy Smith, Associate, Grande Cheese Company
Laurel Porcari from New Orleans was also commissioned to create and install three glass sculptures throughout the building. Two represent the seasons—Annual Prominence, Pollinator Perspective—and Sogni di Sicili pays tribute to the Italian heritage of the company.
Enriching The Outcome
Two hundred thirty works of art by twenty-one artists from across the globe reside at Grande’s home office, and the feedback has been enthusiastic. Integrating art revolutionized the design and outcome of the project—the collection was so large we now realize we should have created a separate Revit model for it—and John Candela described the design as “enriched as a result of [Overland’s] inspired leadership of an intense art selection process, creating the perfect artistic compliment for each space.” But the art serves another purpose. It demonstrates how much Grande values its associates, its relationship toward the surrounding community, and its objective to “positively impact all areas with which [they] personally interact.”