Cool Spaces . . . . Open work space


Photography by Daniel Breland

For Birmingham general contractor Stewart Perry, environmental responsibility is no longer an option. It’s a mission. That sense of shared responsibility flows from their work projects straight through to their corporate home.

When it was time to relocate Stewart Perry’s corporate campus, they found a special place to build. Located on Overton Road in Birmingham, just off interstate 459, the campus is heavily wooded and home to a lake. The Stewart Perry team was awarded U.S. Green Building Council LEED accreditation, Silver status, for the project. HKW served as architect for the project.

Because of its proximity to coal mines, the building site had seen some abuse. The lake was tested and found to have been polluted in a way that was toxic to the area’s wildlife, so it needed to be rebuilt and restocked. The excavated coal tailings previously dumped there were used to construct a parking area for a nearby church.

Reuse and respect for the land is woven throughout the campus. The doors and ceilings are made from red cypress salvaged from one of the company’s building projects. The oak for the floors and siding came from a demolished tobacco warehouse in Virginia.

The campus is ever evolving. Today, it includes a woodworking barn and year-round vegetable garden. For Stewart Perry, these are constant reminders of who they are, how they think, and what can be accomplished when we respect everything around us.

The garden on the campus, for example, started with a small tomato patch and within a short time had expanded so much that the space needed a gardener. The area is now maintained by Katherine Murray and Matthew Smith of Magic City Gardening. They bring fresh produce into the office a few times a week, and the SP office team takes what they need for their families. Excess produce is shared with others, including customers or local shelters.

The polished concrete floors in the lobby and the quilt woven from willow branches from the property convey a warm welcoming experience. The table was crafted by Stewart Perry employees from maple salvaged from a job, and the stools were fashioned by Thom Moser of Auburn, Maine. Company Founder and President Merrill Stewart shares a special relationship with this craftsman, as he spent a week at their facility as a customer in residence.

In the design process, planners discussed everything from no walls for individual offices to three-sided offices. The resulting design includes 12 offices in the space, all similar and fronted by a large panel of glass to create an open feeling and offering some privacy when needed.

The wood ceilings and doors were fashioned from red bald cypress trees, salvaged from a project in Tampa. The oak flooring was repurposed from a tobacco warehouse in Virginia. Quilts sewn by Birmingham artisans are on rotation in the display case depending on usage and season. The large table in the center is made of cast concrete and is a convenient place for ad hoc meetings throughout the day.

The conference room sits in the middle of the lake with natural light and the reflection of the water among its best features. This, coupled with floor-to-ceiling windows, brings in a wash of light and color. The conference table is a square, so no one sits at the head. It was made by Tennessee artisans, Suzie and Tom Church, from the same red bald cypress as the ceiling. The imperfections in the wood were carefully patched instead of being discarded, and now add to the beauty of this one-of-a-kind piece. The two walnut tables were designed to reflect the work of architect Gordon Russell of Cotswold, England, who was instrumental in putting English craftsmen back to work after the war. The walnut came from a company project in Pennsylvania. Out on the deck, rocking chairs are in place for casual meetings, and the handrails are just the right size to balance a cup of coffee. The entire office, including the deck, has Wi-Fi access, allowing employees to sit outside while conducting business.

The kitchen is one of the most loved spaces in the building. In the warmer months, the garage doors are opened for company-wide cookouts out on the patio, beneath the sail shade. In cooler weather, after-work conversations frequently take place beside the fire pit.

The barn on the property isn’t just for storage. It is also a place for carpenters to experiment and make a variety of smaller millwork projects. A wood-burning stove heats the woodworking area in cooler months. Water silos capture about 40,000 gallons of rainwater annually. The exterior barn quilt was painted by the company’s neighbors, the children of Mitchell’s Place and their families.