The award-winning, multimedia news organization NPR has relocated its Washington, DC headquarters to 1111 North Capitol Street, NE, in the business improvement district NOMA (North of Massachusetts Avenue), after nearly 2 decades at 635 Massachusetts Avenue, NW. A landmark-status, 4-story 1920’s warehouse was renovated and an adjoining new, 7-story building was developed to create a 440,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art, LEED-Gold certified headquarters that accommodates a staff of over 700.
Poulin + Morris developed a comprehensive environmental graphics, donor recognition, and wayfinding sign program that prominently influences the exterior and interior of NPR’s new headquarters while illustrating the history of the public-supported multimedia company—from its beginnings in radio to its current involvement in video, apps, and photojournalism. A 52-foot-tall, LED-illuminated tower made of steel and glass, reminiscent of a radio tower, identifies the public entrance plaza and building. LED lighting pulsing through the vertical icon tower, referencing radio waves, culminates at a large-scale NPR logotype. An LED “ticker” ribbon set above the entrance wraps around the building displaying up-to-the-minute headlines culled from NPR data feeds. The building’s main lobby features a 2-story-high, digital “media mosaic” composed of a series of LED screens that display NPR programming, news headlines, popular emailed stories, and member station information from the NPR website, news, and music apps. NPR’s mission statement runs along the walls of the lobby creating a sense of motion—a visually dynamic effect used throughout the building.
At the heart of the building is a 2-story, 100,000-square-foot newsroom with broadcast and production studios accommodating NPR’s non-stop schedule and serving as the center of NPR’s operations. To easily identify various production and recording studios, as well as floor levels and offices, the designers developed custom, large-scale numerals that visually reverberate like radio or sound waves. Visual references interpreting radio frequencies, depicted in different patterns and colors, are found throughout the project.
To disseminate company information in an efficient and consistent manner, the designers created design standards and templates for electronic displays located throughout the building. Monitors can be found at all elevator lobbies, in staff lounges, and in the staff café, displaying various notifications such as general announcements, a calendar of events, press clips, human resources notices, and the café menu.
Several large-scale wall murals were designed for various areas of the new facility, including one that spans a 7-story core wall of the central circulation staircase. Consisting of words relating to NPR’s mission (i. e. “listen,” “innovate,” “engage”), the mural is composed in a manner that emulates upward movement. Another mural in the fitness center features inspiring words related to physical fitness set against abstract images of the human body in motion.
Poulin + Morris has continued to work with NPR on a variety of projects for their new headquarters, including a permanent, interactive lobby exhibition entitled “This is NPR,” as well as branding and identity programs for the NPR store—NPR Commons, and the staff cafeteria—Soundbites Café.