Teach for America Uses Open Plan Design for Newark Offices
When Teach for America moved into their new offices at the 15-story Robert Treat Center located at 50 Park Place in Newark, the design goal was to configure the office space so that it fit the needs of the individuals who work there. The office encompasses 9,080 square feet, serving as a hub in Newark for 27 full-time staffers and numerous corps members and alumni. What the firm created was a modern environment, which fosters collaboration while at the same time pays homage to the city of Newark.
The Newark office space was retrofitted to create an open floor plan that lets in light and allows for the free flow of interaction between employees. In this non-hierarchical space, members sit at bench-style seating that is ideal for teams working on specific projects. Individual space is open and only one closed-door office exists in the entire space, which belongs to the executive director. Collaborative spaces include a book nook with casual seating and kitchen area. There are also about a dozen cubicles with low partitions to allow for some privacy.
On the first floor, a more formal meeting area was created. When Teach For America has a full house for events such as professional development sessions, staff holiday party or casual meetings, employees utilize the larger meeting area. For very large assemblies they’ve used space at the adjacent Best Western Robert Treat Hotel.
Maintaining a Newark Office Presence
“We saw an opportunity to create an open event space because we have so many professional development sessions,” said Kim Reynolds, director of strategy, talent and operations. We work with a number of other community organizations that are often looking for space so we saw this as a great opportunity to create a large meeting area where you can close doors while accommodating up to 50 people.”
Since Teach For America is an organization that works in partnership with local schools, districts and communities, it was essential they maintain a presence in Newark’s downtown district. It serves as a resource for teachers who commit to teach for two years in urban and rural public schools. The relocation to the Robert Treat Center office building from 60 Park Place allowed the organization to double its digs while maintaining a central presence in Newark’s downtown district. With corps members coming in from the surrounding area, the city’s unparallel transportation infrastructure was an important asset for workers. Newark offers easy access to major highways, NJ Transit, PATH, and Amtrak rail. Nearby, Newark Liberty International Airport, Port Newark and Elizabeth Marine Terminal also help connect the city to points around the globe.
Transportation Themed Office Space
The office space is designed around the concept of transportation, making it exclusive to its Newark home.Teach for America has 74 facilities nationwide. “When we create an office design in our different regions, it’s definitely a priority to ensure that the flavor and vibrance of the community in that region comes through in that space,” said Reynolds. “So when you walk in, it feels like you are in the New Jersey office as opposed to the Chicago or Mississippi office.”
Creatively designed in a vibrant palate of bright primary colors, Teach for America added industrial and modern touches to emphasize the transportation theme. Raw corrugated steel on the walls and a carpet pattern that creates the appearance of movement.
These inspiring surroundings for the Teach for America organization aid them on their quest to train and support corps members in the Newark area who in turn help students succeed in the classroom.