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bb&t leadership institute

project story

Opened in May 2018, The BB&T Leadership Institute’s new campus in Greensboro, North Carolina is a marriage of place and purpose. BB&T, a Fortune 500 company, is one of the largest financial services holding companies in the United States. Leading companies come to The BB&T Leadership Institute for world-class leadership development education. The heart of The Leadership Institute’s offerings is a highly-effective immersive program of self-discovery held over three or five days.

Formerly located within a non-descript office park, program space was limited, and participants had to stay in a nearby hotel, thereby ‘breaking’ the intensive learning atmosphere each day. The existing space was a ‘rabbit-warren’ of hallways and private offices; consultants and staff had little connection to the outdoors or to each other. The Leadership Institute wanted a new home that would embody its culture and facilitate its teaching and the work of program participants.

From early meetings, the discussions centered on the values of openness, flexibility, diversity and collaboration. These became sort of the lodestars for the project overall. But on a more physical level, the program itself was the guiding principle. The team focused on the experience of the participant in The Leadership Institute’s programs and how to craft an environment that would become almost like another aspect of the program itself.

Inspired by the narrow, sloping wooded site, the design team conceived of a village-like campus stretching 565 feet along a natural spine. A study of the terrain and natural features helped integrate the building into the site with a soft footprint. The design team walked the site with an arborist and the landscape architect, marking specific trees to be saved; design and construction was essentially like a delicate insertion within the site.

Each element opens to views of the lake and woods – from the ‘Enrich’ pavilion/event room at one end to the Treehouse at the other. The “Treehouse” is positioned between three large oak trees and takes on the character of a “Chapel in the Woods”. Floor-to-ceiling glass, open stairs, and wide decks blend inside with outside, allowing guests and staff to connect with nature, eliminating outside world distractions and promoting an inward focus.

A key idea was creating a holistic design to help blur the boundary between the natural world and the built environment to allow people to connect to themselves and to the world outside more easily. The “village” or campus layout partly achieved that goal – by breaking out certain areas to become small pods unto themselves, people are forced in a way to re-connect to nature as they go out and in. It makes one instantly aware of the world beyond oneself and the normal, conditioned environment in which most of us spend most of our days. Then, the openness of the buildings themselves, which provides sweeping views to the woods, the lake, and the grounds – even when one is in the building one is enveloped in nature.

Organic materials that move from the exterior to the interior further weaken the boundary between inside and outside. Natural materials throughout reinforce connectivity with the natural world. Trees from the site were salvaged and repurposed, including being used as barn doors in the lobby and bistro. Placed on end, trunks and branches became an abstract marker at the elevator lobby.

The 60,000 square foot, three-level campus includes 3 full program suites, each with 2 meeting rooms plus different types of flexible spaces for collaborative work. Additional meeting/ special event rooms and 48 luxurious guest rooms allow The Leadership Institute to host multiple simultaneous programs and events.

Marking the beginning of their immersion, guests arrive via a bridge into the lobby with its direct view to the lake and woods. The main floor is the most public, with staff and administrative and the Enrich event room on this level. The upper ‘treetop’ floor is reserved for program work; the lower floor hosts amenities and support spaces.

Seating nooks and open seating areas, multiple break out rooms, wrap-around decks, a fire pit and other casual spaces encourage connection and sharing. Program teams come together at night to collaborate; community tables in the bistro are sized for this group work. A fitness room provides a place to energize. Breakfast and lunch are served in a bistro setting. With their treetop and lakeside views, guest rooms are a place of respite, deliberately separate from teaching and group areas. Wood flooring and paneling create a scaled-down entry passage, welcoming the guest home.

Separated from program areas, Institute administrative spaces are self-sufficient, with private and open offices, a transient work area, huddle rooms, and break room. Several team members shifted from private to open offices, “giving back” space for conference and huddle rooms. Light-filled and open spaces encourage collaboration and creativity among staff. LEED Silver Certified targeted.

Location: Greensboro, North Carolina
Square footage: 60,000
Services: master planning, architecture, interior design, ffe