Survival Guide: Perspectives from the field

Joseph Boggs, president, principal-in-charge and lead design architect at Boggs & Partners Architects Inc.

Rick Steele

If you're a government contractor, you might want to consider what your office design conveys to your clients, according to Joseph Boggs of Boggs & Partners Architects Inc. of Annapolis, Md. The firm has designed a sleek new building for government technology contractor Windermere Group LLC. Earlier this month Windermere was acquired by Essex Corp, a Columbia, Md., provider of advanced signal, image and information processing services to government. The building (See it at 3_5_04.htm.) will be part of Annapolis Gateway, a three-building technology park.

Boggs & Partners also designed Science Applications International Corp.'s 10-story office building and conference center in McLean, Va., and worked on projects in Washington for Battelle Memorial Institute and in McLean for Booz Allen Hamilton. The company also has done design projects for government agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, the Smithsonian Institution and the National Park Service.

Boggs spoke with Staff Writer Roseanne Gerin about his design work and the technologies that have changed his profession.

WT: Why should government contractors care about the architecture of their buildings?

Boggs: It could say a great deal about their mission. However, more often than not, government contractors want a more low-key image in their procurement efforts.

WT: How can building design define what contractors are and what they do?

Boggs: Typically, they don't. But I think the public has an impression in mind of what they expect it to look like. NASA, for example has a distinct image for most people. Most contractors seem to display their products on their campuses, such as tanks or airplanes, as symbols of their efforts that are not secret. Most of the graphic signage is understated, at best. Certainly, the Northrop Grumman Corp. or Lockheed Martin Corp. campuses have a look that is discernible.

WT: What is it about the Windermere building that symbolizes defense and homeland security work?

Boggs: The design sets forth a notion of "shielding" and of a dynamic internal force working outward, which implies a certain dynamism and strength.

WT: How does the SAIC building define what that company is about?

Boggs: At SAIC, we tried to illustrate what the "inner workings" might provide by the new nine-story atrium with banners of their efforts displayed.

WT: What are some of the building-related features that defense and homeland security-related companies look for?

Boggs: They want secure workplaces with shielded, secure, compartmentalized information facility environments and proximity to the agencies they focus on for contract opportunities.

WT: Are there certain kinds of architectural structures or building materials that defense companies should avoid?

Boggs: Certainly, very public, easily accessed buildings without intrusion control, and materials that are not of a certain mass and protective quality. National security issues prevail as to information control and ingress and egress of employees.

WT: Which building anywhere in the world is your favorite structure?

Boggs: The Guggenheim Museum by Frank Gehry in Bilbao, Spain.

WT: How has technology changed the architectural design profession?

Boggs: Now, with funds, virtually anything can be built by the advent of computer modeling and computer fabrication.

WT: What can architects do now with building design that they could not do five or 10 years ago?

Boggs: Complex, 3-D, curvilinear shapes with no traditional geometries.

WT: How do you ensure that when you design a building, it won't look outdated in 20 years?

Boggs: You cannot assure that, as architecture is becoming more sculpture, and the nature of sculpture is that it is not static and is ever evolving and changing.

WT: If you could build an office
building for any defense or homeland security-related company or agency, which would you want to build it for?

Boggs: The National Security Agency. The very nature of what happens there is an enigma to a certain extent. To design a structure that houses that which does not want to be seen or heard, but uses the most sophisticated, space-based technology is intriguing.

It should be totally internal and totally external at the same time. The reach of such an agency intrigues people and frightens them at the same time. A building that houses people like you and me ? but what they do every day cannot be spoken of to an extent ? is mysterious and fascinating.

Yet with all the sophistication that the present structure has, it is defended by a series of random boulders strewn around the perimeter like a Middle Ages castle. Interesting visual images of satellites, boulders and chain-link fencing. Curious how vulnerable we seem to be. Certainly, this building deserves more in terms of defensibility. n

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