Friedman Transforms Galleria’s Common Spaces
What happens when a self-professed “tile junkie,” a supportive owner, and an architect who designs spaces for the well-being of building users join forces on a project? Step into the Galleria Officentre’s newly renovated atrium lobbies in Southfield and experience the answer.
Calmness falls like sunlight in the atrium joining the Galleria 100 and 200 Buildings. Two different digital wall murals anchor each end of the atrium: At one entry, the sun beams through a forest in full leaf; at the other, an image simply of water, gently rippling and softly illuminated, adds to this tranquil interior. Both custom murals are actually composed of perforated metal panels designed to conceal seven-by-four-foot mechanical grilles without blocking the unit’s air flow.
On the walls, the digital murals, along with framed expanses of faux green moss, create a place of perpetual summer. Davis & Davis, an interior design firm based in Farmington Hills, designed this relaxing atrium and its contemporary faux landscape of white birches, grasses and groundcover moss as a type of antidote to Michigan’s relentless winters and to southeastern Michigan’s nerve-wracking levels of traffic.
The recent renovation transformed the soaring, light-washed atrium of the Galleria 300 Building as well. In both atriums, pendant light fixtures of sculptural glass, resembling inverted calla lilies, cascade down the full height of each atrium and come to rest at staggered levels. For the flooring, the subtle, natural variability of Ergon Italian porcelain tile – installed by Eldorado Tile & Marble Co., Sterling Heights – completes this organic interior. “My goal is to elevate the human experience in the built environment through artistry and innovation, and to enhance form and function for how people work, heal and live,” said Davis & Davis Director of Design Michelle Davis. “I like to design environments that make people feel their best.”
The Galleria 300 atrium has an inspired geometry. The sculptures, the white birches and the standing Lily light fixtures are paired and placed across the main pathway from each other. Geometric grids of large-format Italian porcelain tile, set in a frame of faux grass, and square podium/platforms ensembles add to the effect. The symmetry is not sterile but creates a sense of harmony, calm and order in a space sun-washed by day and intimately illuminated in late evening or early morning.
Friedman Integrated Real Estate Solutions LLC, Farmington Hills, likes to offer tenants environments designed by Davis & Davis. In fact, the Galleria is the 10th lobby Davis & Davis has designed for a Friedman property. The architectural firm has a 10-year working relationship with Friedman’s own full-service construction and design services office. Completing this successful triad, Eldorado Tile & Marble has been tackling tile projects of increasing complexity as an integral part of this successful team for the last decade.
A Paradise of Italian Porcelain Tile
A decade of teamwork has created a host of beautiful lobbies across southeastern Michigan. At the newly renovated Galleria lobbies, the landscaping now has a tailored and manicured appearance, the lighting is sleek and contemporary, and the flooring has brightened from red brick to a varied but generally light color palette of Italian porcelain tile.
About 12 different types, sizes and textures of Italian porcelain tile have replaced the existing glazed brick floors in both atriums. For the flooring, a pattern of large-format, Lappato (semi-polished) tiles alternate with tile stripes in a matte finish. “I live tile,” said Eldorado President Jack DiGiovanni. “The fact that the floor pattern has the matte against the Lappato finish is a subtle feature, but if you are a tile junkie like me, it looks great.”
Different applications of porcelain tile blanket the entire atrium and its support spaces. A three-dimensional porcelain tile, called Parallelo, graces the elevator walls. Eldorado Tile & Marble’s expert team even installed a recently introduced, ultra-thin porcelain tile slab for vertical applications. Only introduced about three years ago, the thin porcelain tile slabs come in nine-by-three-foot sections. “It’s a new trend in the tile business, because normally the thickness of tile is three-eighths of an inch,” said DiGiovanni. “This is the first time we have used it, and we even sent our tile mechanics to a Tennessee facility to learn installation techniques for this product. I think thin porcelain tile slabs are not just a passing trend, but have real staying power.”
At the Galleria, the ultra-thin porcelain tile clads the security desks in both atriums, lending a more contemporary sensibility to the spaces. “The new security desks with backlit panels, thin slab porcelain tile and a digital directory offer an innovative and exciting look,” said Davis. Thin tile also covers the lower four feet of the 100/200 atrium’s former brick walls. Almost the only renovated Galleria space without any type of Italian porcelain tile is the lower wall section of the 300 atrium. These brick walls are painted gray, because they are essentially obscured by the intriguing features of this remarkable space.
If You Renovate It, They Will Come
This renovation began shortly after Friedman Real Estate purchased the Galleria Officentre, a one-million-square-foot complex of four buildings originally constructed in 1983. Beginning in 2016, Friedman set about refreshing Galleria’s 35-year-old common spaces to spark greater tenant interest. “We targeted the lobbies with the most foot traffic for renovation, said James Parrinello, Friedman’s Vice President of Construction-FCDC, Construction and Design Services.
The renovation began as the others have over the course of the last 10 years. “David, Michelle and I met at the Galleria, and we said, ‘Michelle, come up with some ideas,’” said Parrinello. “Michelle created a few renderings, and my construction team began pricing the job.”
The delicate dance between the design and the budget begins at that point. “Michelle has a great deal of design freedom,” said Parrinello. “Very rarely do we reel back the design.” Parrinello works closely with Davis to religiously preserve the design intent, while still controlling the budget by discussing, identifying and then only eliminating what Davis deems dispensable. In the case of the Galleria 300 lobby, Friedman’s construction services eliminated a proposed free-form suspended sculpture, but preserved the pendant Lily light fixtures.
Thanks to Friedman’s own willingness to invest resources and to give sanctuary to quality design, the office lobby as part peaceful oasis and part art gallery comes into its own in the main atrium of Galleria 300. The space offers the unexpected and the beautiful, turning a simple stroll through an atrium into an engaging experience. In entering the newly renovated lobby, tenants and visitors first glimpse the signature Lily light fixtures cascading down the 50-foot- high atrium. “Building users immediately see the space as fresh and new,” said Davis.
Rounding a slight bend, this sophisticated lobby and its faux landscape come into full view. Beneath white birch trees, rounded globes of moss are arranged in symmetrical rows and “planted” in a bed of black stones. Sculptures of abstract human figures stand in a bed of grass, and both rest on a thin porcelain tile-clad assembly of a pure white podium and a black platform. Davis engaged a local artist to create the atrium’s corded sculptures, and Davis herself conceived of the sculptures’ ombre color scheme (paint transitioning from a lighter to a darker shade). “We wanted to design a space that would be a signature location and not a mere copy of something that has already been done before,” said Davis. “We have transformed this property into a unique, stand-out location through the juxtaposition of color, form, texture and light.”
Two other podium-platform assemblies host a cluster of custom light fixtures resembling standing versions of the Lily ceiling lights. “Planted” at staggered heights, the fixtures not only add an early morning or late evening glow to the lobby, but illuminate the atrium with their originality. These unique fixtures are surrounded by the red flame-like petals of living bromeliads planted in openings in the black platforms.
Tenants and visitors feel a sense of discovery in walking down the central pathway and encountering signature elements seldom seen in any other lobby venue. “The user experience is always very important to me,” said Davis. “The goal is to ensure that building users walking through the space are engaged as they progress through the lobby and that there are unique elements that capture people’s interest.”
Moreover, the newly renovated atriums have captured the interest of existing and new tenants. “This building has gotten a lot of traction from the renovation,” said Parrinello. “At a recent 7 a.m. meeting, we just had a tenant renew their 28,000-square-foot space. They said, ‘We love the lobby. It’s great.’ A well-done lobby breathes new life into a building, and it is a springboard for new tenant activity. I have probably three or four large tenants now in the process of signing and moving into this building from other buildings.”
The project’s success rests on quality design and craftsmanship, a well-managed construction
project, and most importantly, on an owner who trusts the team and invests in the work. “Friedman Real Estate is absolutely committed to making sure that the end user has that great experience,” said Davis. “They are willing to invest in their interiors to make that happen.”
The Transformation Begins
Each atrium lobby took about six months to renovate. The main challenge was balancing design and budget, but a close second on this project was managing the sheer array of custom components. If one piece of this beautiful “puzzle” didn’t arrive on time, finding a substitute wasn’t possible without harming the design intent. “If there are a dozen tiles coming from Italy and if you don’t get that specific tile, it is hard to find another tile that fits a row of three or four tiles without detracting from the overall feel that we are trying to achieve,” said Parrinello.
Eldorado Tile worked closely with Friedman’s construction team in securing this diverse palette of porcelain tiles. “We worked with Jim’s crew in ordering all of these Italian tiles,” said DiGiovanni. “We had to make sure we didn’t have too much or too little of any type.”
DiGiovanni studies the blueprints thoroughly before launch of each Friedman project. At Galleria, “I spent a great deal of time at the front-end of this challenging project to understand all the different tile types, sizes and textures,” said DiGiovanni. “I have to then impart all the complexities of the job to our tile mechanics. The day before beginning the project we sometimes go through the project for a couple of hours to ease the process in the field.”
Once on the site, achieving the desired flat surface for new tile application was a must. “We had to grind the existing brick to remove the wax, and also remove some of the brick and perform some leveling,” said DiGiovanni. Some of the existing brick had to be removed to achieve a match between the level of the existing doors and the height of the new tile flooring. “Some of the existing brick was also left in place, because it is so deeply embedded in the concrete, it would have been astronomically expensive to remove it all,” added Parrinello.
As another challenge, working in an occupied building compounds the difficulty of any construction project, but when your prime business is keeping tenants happy, the pressure to avoid any disruption to building occupants is even greater. Friedman simply walled off the Galleria 300 lobby and directed people to feeder corridors. At Galleria 100/200, half of the main corridor was cordoned off – one half dedicated to building users and the other half to serve as Eldorado’s active work site.
At both atriums, the Eldorado Tile & Marble team installed the same large-format Ergon tile from the Cornerstone Collection on the floors. Serving as a way-finding aid, thick stripes of black porcelain tile in both atriums were installed to mark the intersection of each lobby and the adjacent corridors. In the 100/200 atrium, the black tiles align with both the corridors and the atrium’s overhead bridges, helping building users to more easily navigate the building corridors.
“Jack and his team did a wonderful job of installing all of these diverse tiles on the project,” said Davis. Eldorado Tile’s partnership with Friedman/Davis has been a sort of advanced apprenticeship in tile. “The Friedman/Davis projects are a “bit more difficult than the average job,” said DiGiovanni. “It was a big deal the first time the Eldorado team and myself tackled one of these jobs 10 years ago, but now it’s actually fun.”
Positive Rapport and Beautiful Spaces
Teamwork and an enjoyable sense of rapport worked its magic in the end results achieved in this renovation. Both atriums now have more contemporary finishes, furnishings and fixtures. “At Galleria 100/200, new linear lighting and removal of the polished aluminum slat-ceilings on the atrium bridges create a sleek and updated appearance,” said Davis.
In 2017, this well-established team also renovated areas east of the main 100/200 atrium, including the restrooms, small elevator lobbies and feeder hallways. “The renovated restrooms are now blanketed in Italian porcelain tile and are equipped with energy-wise, touchless faucets and fixtures,” said Parrinello.
The small lobbies now have new LED light fixtures, Italian porcelain tile floors and Parallelo tile on the elevator walls. Color as a way-finding aid was introduced into the adjacent tenant corridors of the main atriums and into these smaller lobbies as well. “We have a different color on the wall at each entry point to these smaller lobbies,” said DLobbtavis. In the green lobby, for instance, the same color travels down the corridor as a carpet accent and wall tab, or “bump-out.” In 2018, Friedman will be transforming similar spaces west of the Galleria 100/200’s main atrium.
“The construction division under Jim does an amazing job of executing the project,” said Davis, “and it is great working with Friedman Real Estate, because David Friedman follows through on his commitment to purchase and breathe new life into a property.”
At the Galleria renovation, the intangible alchemy of team rapport had a powerful influence on the renovation’s success. For the Eldorado Tile & Marble team, having a great working relationship with Friedman as a general contractor and having the ability to directly discuss issues with Davis & Davis as the architect means “you can get down to business and work faster – and do your best work,” said DiGiovanni. On a Friedman project, all the trade contractors and superintendents “are on the same page and have the same goal in mind – the success of the project,” DiGiovanni added.
The success of the Galleria lobby renovations boils down to trust and allowing professionals to do what they do best. “David Friedman realizes that the team he has assembled simply works,” said Parrinello. “We have his trust, and he gets momentum, a ‘buzz’ about the project, and increased tenant activity in a wonderfully refreshed building.”