WATER R OWER Idea. Product. Design. Community.
Idea. Product. Design. Community.
Functional art. These are the words that many people use to describe the products made by WaterRower, Inc. located in Warren, RI. Featured in the Netflix series â€œHouse of Cards,â€? the rowing machines and weight equipment manufactured by WaterRower are lauded both for their natural beauty and the quality of the exercise experience they provide. When Union Studio was asked to help WaterRower envision a new international headquarters, we did not have to look far for inspiration. During an initial phase of work that included a full renovation and addition to the manufacturing facility, we witnessed raw materials hand crafted into small, functional and beautiful pieces of equipment. After seeing the care that was
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brought to the design and engineering of their products, we knew that their new headquarters should share the same material and functional sense of craft. Immediately we envisioned a crisp shingle post and beam barn that would pay clear homage both to the site (a former farm) as well as to the materials and details found in many of the company’s products. The resulting building is a highly visible visitor’s center and headquarters that incorporates a product museum, showroom, gym space for product demonstrations, an elevated outdoor deck space along with marketing, sales, and administrative offices. In keeping with the owner’s vision and goals, this new 30,000 sf headquarters succeeds in providing an inspiring environment for clients and employees that is reflective of the aesthetic and experiential values of the company.
“We could’ve built another block manufacturing building, but we wanted to do the right thing for the community with the land here...” - Peter King, CEO, WaterRower, Inc.
T H E G ROW TH OF A COMPANY In 1990, WaterRower manufactured 12 rowing machines per year. In 2016, they manufactured 80,000. The exponential growth of the company could largely be attributed to the combination of a great design idea, U N ION ST U D IO | www.uni o nstud i oa rc h .co m
innovative manufacturing, and business expertise. The original rowing machine design was conceived in the mid1980â€™s by John Duke, a Yale and US National Team Rower based in Rhode Island. In 1991, London-based Peter King joined WaterRower to bring his high-volume manufacturing expertise to the production process. Soon Peter assumed ownership of the growing company with assembly facilities in Rhode Island, the United Kingdom, and Australia. He consolidated international manufacturing operations to their 4,000 sf factory in Warren, RI. At the time, the facility featured 3 open desks next to the machine paint shop and a small conference room.
Top: Original drawings for patented rowing machine design Bottom: A WaterRower rowing machine as featured on the Netflix series â€œHouse of Cards.â€? Right: A WaterRower machine standing in entry lobby
Economically, the consolidation made sense. The price of land and labor was less than that of London, and the small factory was located on a large parcel of pastoral land in a predominantly commercial district on a busy arterial road. Future expansion was anticipated, so when an adjacent parcel was slotted for new commercial development, Peter recognized the opportunity to work with the Town on a better option.
The buildingâ€™s rear entrance facing East.
Now, with a local workforce of 237 employees, most of whom live in Rhode Island and approximately half live in the small, waterfront town of Warren, WaterRower stands as one of the Stateâ€™s most valued homegrown manufacturing successes. T HE D ES IGN PROC ESS By 2015, phased expansion plans included renovations and additions to the existing manufacturing facility and the future construction of two new administrative and office buildings. Union Studio worked closely with WaterRower, their Ownerâ€™s representative, and Behan Brothers to draw and price conceptual schemes. Over time it proved most economical to build both new buildings simultaneously, which led to the decision to connect these buildings with a glass hyphen so as to maintain separate programming while maximizing construction efficiencies.
Rear (East) Elevation
The resulting 30,000 sf building features open work stations, conference rooms, private offices, a kitchen and outdoor lounge area to the south. To the north of the glass hyphen entrance lobby is a large product showroom and additional administrative space above. As the company grows, the northern “wing” will provide additional work space. The unusual site assumes two distinctly different characters: to the west, the existing manufacturing facility fronts a busy commercial arterial road, to the east, a grassy bucolic field slopes down
to the Kikimuit River. Union Studio addressed this condition by creating strong massing with a dramatic glass entrance on the commercial frontage. On the pastoral frontage, the “L” shaped plan with ample windows provides multiple views down to the Kikimuit. Additionally, the plan allowed us to save old-growth trees while providing a visual and acoustic shield from the busy commercial road to the west. Adirondack chairs perch on the rear entrance terrace and a open deck on the second floor provides a place for employees to enjoy the landscape.
Below: Site plan Bottom: Eastern elevation showing rear entrance and covered deck on the second floor.
First floor reception lobby looking North 10
Union Studio endeavored to translate WaterRower’s brand identity into architecture with an interior that reflects the company’s values and an exterior that reflects the community’s values. The result is a timeless, contextual building befitting an international corporate headquarters located in a small New England town.
Right: Second floor looking North toward workstations Below: First floor conference room
Inside, raw wood and exposed trusses echo the simple, elegant design of the company’s rowing machines. Built for functionality and performance, while targeted to the luxury market, WaterRower’s product line balances strength and refinement. Union Studio endeavored to translate this brand identity into architecture with an interior that reflects the company’s values and an exterior that reflects the community’s values. The result is a timeless, contextual building befitting an international corporate headquarters located in a small New England town.
Second floor looking north towards workstations 14
CO MMU N I TY IMPAC T Upon learning of plans for the commercial development of this pastoral vacant parcel of land, community residents vocalized their concern. A previous development scheme offered more of the same lowgrade commercial development that was dotting Metacom Avenue. When WaterRower purchased the parcel, residents assumed that the factory expansion and new commercial building would offer more of the same. Instead, WaterRower proposed an award-winning custom headquarters that greatly improves the quality of the built environment on this well-travelled arterial road. As Peter King explains, “We could’ve built another block manufacturing building, but we wanted to do the right thing for the community with the land here.” The community response has been overwhelmingly positive. As one resident said to Peter “You did what you said you were going to do, and then you did it better.”
SPECIAL THANKS TO OUR TEAM Client: WaterRower, Inc. Architecture & Interiors: Union Studio Architecture & Community Design - Douglas Kallfelz - Principal in Charge - Paul Attemann - Project Architect - Ian Manire- Project Designer Builder: Behan Bros., Inc.
â€œYou did what you said you were going to do, and then you did it better.â€? - Warren Resident
Project Management Consultant: Sheridan Design Build Structural Engineer: Yoder + Tidwell, Ltd. Mechanical Engineer: Engineering Design Services, Inc. Site / Civil Engineer: Waterman Engineering Company Site / Civil Engineer: Crossman Engineering Photographer: Nat Rea Photography
Left: First floor conference room Below: Front (West) elevation facing Metacom Avenue
Published on Sep 29, 2017
Functional art. These are the words that many people use to describe the products made by WaterRower, Inc. located in Warren, RI. Featured i...