Three Valley corporate lobbies showcase how design can be sustainable and spectacular.

By definition, the “Wow Factor” refers to the degree to which the first impression of something makes a person say “Wow!” It’s surprising, cool and original.

Walk into a corporate lobby and “wow” is the reaction many firms are trying to achieve. We looked around the Valley and have found these examples of corporate lobbies that will take your breath away.

You want to be surprised? Check out Squire, Sanders & Dempsey on the 27th floor of CityScape in Downtown Phoenix; this is not your father’s law office.

“Our architect (Phil Olson of Alliance Architecture) has a great sense of the dramatic, but not the excessive. When people get off the elevator, we want them to feel a sense of substance and depth and permanence, but not a sense of opulence, and I hope we’ve achieved that balance there,” says Bob L. Matia, Phoenix office managing partner (1979-2009) at Squire, Sanders & Dempsey. “And of course the view is spectacular. It’s (the lobby) substantial in its volume but simple in its design, and I think that is what we were trying to achieve.”

For coolness, there’s Hayden Ferry Lakeside II in Tempe.

“Once you step through the door, the feel is totally different than the outside,” says Richard Drinkwater, a principal and senior designer with DAVIS, which designed not only the lobby, but also the two office buildings at Hayden Ferry Lakeside. “The reaction is, ‘Wow, that is some lobby.’ That ‘Wow Factor’ is a great sales tool. It’s an identity. You’ve made your point. You know you have arrived.”

And for originality, no one’s corporate lobby reflects that more than Empire Southwest in Mesa.

“When our customers visit us, they should know that we eat, sleep and breathe tractors and engines,” says Empire chairman and CEO Jeff Whiteman of the company’s main office remodeling, done in 2000 by landscape architect Bill Tonnesen. “This shouldn’t look like a bank.”

Come along for the tour.

Corporate Lobbies That WOW


Step off the elevator on the 27th floor at CityScape, 1 E. Washington St., and this law firm’s corporate lobby exudes “Wow Factor,” and a profound sense of sustainability.

The lobby is a long expanse of windows that open to a balcony overlooking Downtown Phoenix. Judith Neuman, SS&D regional marketing and business development manager, says those involved in the project agreed there needed to be a place to entertain or host public receptions.

“This whole wall accordions out, so that when we do have receptions and do things like that, it gives us a little bit more space,” Neuman says. “We did want the reception area — we decided with the committee (of the firm’s attorneys) — to have that ‘Wow Factor.’ ”

Behind the reception desk is a good example of the firm’s use of plyboo, an architectural plywood made from 100% renewable bamboo. The floors are constructed of recycled stone terrazzo tile. All the glass in the reception area was done by Meltdown Glass in Tempe.

One of SS&D’s goals for its new offices was achieving LEED certification, despite the fact that CityScape itself is not LEED certified. Hiring Meltdown Glass was part of its certification process, as was purchasing the carpet from Atlas Carpet Mills in California.

“The building, as you know, is not LEED certified, much to our disappointment,” says Joyce Klejbuk, SS&D’s Phoenix office administrator. “But we did pull out the original plumbing fixtures and replaced them with the plumbing fixtures that are LEED compliant — the low water urinals, the low water toilets.”

Walking into a conference room off the lobby, Klejbuk points out: “These tables … this is called ice stone. Basically it is recycled glass particles put in some kind of stone. You can see beer bottles, milk bottles. There’s even ice stone in some of the mirrors. So in the evening when the lights are low, this is very spectacular because the little fragments refract the lights. It’s really pretty.”

Other sustainable initiatives include replacing bottled water with pitchers of filtered water. And, no Styrofoam cups here; every employee receives a mug.

Even the employee cafeteria is part of the Wow Factor. It offers one of the best views of the Valley and WiFi capability.

“The passage of time has produced more energy-efficient products and we try to take full benefit from the modernization of the construction industry,” Matia says. “We’re quite pleased with the way it came out and hope the community is as well.”


Corporate Lobbies - Hayden Ferry Lakeside
The developers of Hayden Ferry Lakeside II wanted to achieve a nautical theme when the project was designed in 2005. Construction began in 2006, and the building opened in early 2007.

Hayden Ferry Lakeside II is a gleaming, 12-story, mixed-use structure that sits on the banks of Tempe Town Lake. While the exterior of the building resembles a large ship, it’s inside — past the front desk and lobby area — that one gets the feeling of being under water.

“The lobby had to be a large space to achieve that underwater theme,” Drinkwater of DAVIS says. “The rudder wall; the stone floor, which depicts deep blue and black water. You feel you’re under the lake with the backlit art glass. Then there’s the metal roof and cleft stone. The feel is totally different than the outside.”

Past the elevators, visitors are treated to a seating area that is both soothing and attractive to the eye. Black leather chairs offer a comfortable respite.

“I see people sitting there just enjoying the silence,” Drinkwater says.

While LEED certification was not pursued by SunCor Development, Hayden Ferry Lakeside II earned NAIOP awards in 2008 — Talk of the Town and Mid-to-High-Rise Office Building of the Year.

The materials overview is another indication of the water theme. The floor is polished blue pearl granite. The stone walls are black obsidian granite. The ceiling has a satin finish with perforated stainless steel panels. The glass walls are back-lit art glass, blue tinted with cast texture produced by Nathan Allen studios.


Corporate Lobbies - AZRE Magazine November/December 2010
Walk into Empire Southwest’s corporate headquarters off U.S. 60 and Country Club Drive, and the theme is evident: Equipment is sculpture. Visitors are greeted by six monumental sheep’s foot compactor drums that flank the sidewalk. Because Empire has enjoyed a long relationship with Arizona’s mining industry, copper ore rock mulch and boulders are used for arid-zone landscaping around the building.

Step inside, and metal track rail links stand guard next to the front doors. The reception desk is a 16-inch cylinder block engine with exposed pistons that support the glass top. Set against the back wall next to a visitor seating area is an H180 breaker, the largest hydraulic hammer that Caterpillar makes.

A lifting hook is on a swivel attached to a guardrail on the first level. A 12-foot-wide steel door opens to the boardroom, where you find one of Empire’s most popular features, an antique bulldozer installed under the floor and viewed through glass.

“I wanted the board room to be perceived as part of the lobby,” landscape architect Tonnesen says. “What makes this room work is the (the door). … It features what is probably our most interesting project component — the conference table.”

That table is 16 feet long and depicts the history of fuel injection systems, suspended in resin.

Water is another essential element in Tonnesen’s overall design. Twin, glassy pools greet visitors at the main entry. The employee garden, east of the main entry, is the most obvious example of equipment as sculpture. It includes equipment attachments that chronicle Empire’s history and Caterpillar’s engineering expertise.