As Centene’s East Coast Headquarters project nears completion, I can honestly say that this project came with an intensity level I have not experienced in my 20+ years in architecture. I’m extremely grateful to have navigated this project with such an amazing internal LS3P team, and to have had this opportunity to lead, learn, and grow together. What was it like for each of you to work on a project of this scale? Emma Edmondson, Emerging Professional: This is my first project after earning my architecture degree, and it’s a pretty intense first project. It’s been really cool to see the design process happening at every scale and level, from the huge, multi-story atrium and skylight to the under-stair lighting detail in the treehouses. Jacquelyn Satterwhite, Associate | Assistant Construction Administrator: It was a phenomenal learning experience. The fast paced and magnitude of this project really helped me grow. Kevin Schaffner, Senior Associate | Architect: All of the project managers had to remain laser-focused on our specific scopes, while maintaining an overall campus design objective that aligned at every level. The most critical parts of our jobs were document coordination among many disciplines, and making sure the contractor understood the design intent at each intersection. Patrick Cooley, Senior Associate | Emerging Professional: In another life I was fortunate to work on stadium renovation projects so the scale of Centene was very reminiscent of one of those – just on a more aggressive construction timeline if you can believe it. Paul Koska, Associate Principal | Architect: A project of this scale required a constant back and forth between the micro and the macro. It’s often easy to get caught up in the details of it all or a particular problem of the day (micro), but keeping the vision for the campus at the forefront and how all of the micro elements formulate the overall campus experience was a daily mantra. This has truly been a remarkable project and I, for one, am extremely excited about working with those who will call it their home. How do you feel about the Centene project nearing completion? Emma: Bittersweet. Starting my career off on such a design high-note, I’ve been continuously impressed by what my team members and I have been able to accomplish. Every time I visit the site, it gets closer and closer to leaving our hands and becoming part of the public realm. Jacquelyn: So happy and a little sad. I love working with this team and it has been fun to share this experience because you don’t know what it’s like to go through it until you are in the thick of it! Kevin: I am always excited to see project evolve from drawing to physical manifestation, and it will be great to step back and admire the work that has been going constantly for the past few years. Seeing where and how this project will evolve in future years is a unique opportunity. Patrick: There comes a time when you’re ready: ready to start the next one, ready to be done with submittals and RFIs, ready for a new routine. Centene was a passion and a challenge lasting over two years, and I am ready for the next project and looking forward to bringing a very long list of lessons learned. Paul: Excellent. It looks great and hope that the end product sells itself in regards to marketing for a tenant/buyer. It’s also a great showpiece for LS3P to expand our portfolio within the corporate HQ arena. For me, I think the most exciting part of the project was coming into our 2020 interview in St. Louis as the underdog and leaving the interview with the sense that we could not have delivered a more fitting, better orchestrated message. The effort required strategic planning and the collaboration of extremely talented team members, including Jeff Floyd, Pat Campbell, Phil Oliver, Wil Drennan, Ariel Cohn, and Jaime Infelise. In addition to that, I have gotten to lead, learn, and grow beside a very smart owner and team as we built the incredible trust of a Fortune 24 corporation. What has the most exciting part of this project been for you? Emma: The pace of a real project is something you don’t experience in school, so it was definitely a pretty eye-opening experience. I would draw a shade pocket detail for the atrium, go out to site a few days later, and the detail I drew would already be built. As a newer designer, this blew my mind. Jacquelyn: The design! The “treehouse” is my favorite part. It’s a really cool space, beautifully executed. Kevin: Going out to the jobsite and seeing the progress every visit is rewarding, and being able to walk through spaces that you knew were going to be special and having them turn out even better in person is one of the best parts of our job. Patrick: In designing the Workplace interiors it was the client’s goal to create “the post-Covid workplace of the future” at the time in late 2020 when everyone was speculating about what that meant. The opportunity to work with leading data analysts and furniture manufacturers to define what that meant was truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Paul: The complexity of the structure, and how the structure becomes the architecture in many instances, was a Herculean effort. We put a significant amount of time and energy into the design of the structure as the architecture, and vice versa. This project stretched us in many ways, from learning to design virtually through a global pandemic to meeting every deadline in an aggressive schedule to encouraging the client to view the future of the workplace through a different lens. What, for you, has been the biggest hurdle over the course of the project? Emma: We designed the campus for a general condition, but also for a very specific client. Now that the situation has changed, it will be interesting to see who ends up moving into the building and how they use the space. Kevin: What sets this project apart is the pace. We pushed the boundaries for design and construction time; ultimately, it was a test of what we as designers are capable of, and the team had to prove ourselves repeatedly. Patrick: Coordinating design consistency and quality at such a large scale was a unique challenge and learning curve for sure, especially when supply chain issues have changed the very way we review and acquire materials. Paul: Time. The project was such an accelerated track that keeping up with and coordinating the daily changes was extremely challenging to keep pace with. There were multiple occasions when decisions were being made that directly affected construction the following day. One design lesson I will take away from this project is that a powerful conceptual story can influence every single decision moving forward. For this project, Pat Campbell and Phil Oliver helped lead the initial design innovations, which helped us succeed at the interview stage, and these ideas manifested to shape the conceptual story that drove the project. What did you learn about design from this project? Emma: Designing a project with a specific client and condition in mind simultaneously makes the process easier and harder. You have a better idea of what to design for, but you are also given certain limitations. Jacquelyn: Anything is possible, and good design does exist (though doing good design fast can be expensive.) Kevin: Physics is a myth. All joking aside, the integration of multiple cantilevers into the design language created complex structural conditions that bend one’s perception of what is possible in the design and construction world. Patrick: Designing post-Covid has reminded me of the importance of the fundamentals we were all taught in school: less is more, provide access to natural light, and use authentic materials to create an inviting modern design. No amount of technological innovation implemented on this project came close to the importance of those basic lessons. Paul: Being told “no” doesn’t mean folding your cards; it just means you have to find a different, better way to achieve the initial result you were looking for. In my opinion, communication is the number one factor in any successful project, and we experienced that over and over again with this team. What lessons did you learn about process over the course of the project? Emma: You really have to pick your battles, especially as you near the end of a project. Little issues pop up constantly, and it’s a matter of choosing which ones are most important to the design and narrative of the project. Jacquelyn: It takes time and a dedicated team to make something this big and fast paced work while adhering to the vision. You are either all in or not. Kevin: It important to make design decisions as early as possible. Late changes will result in field-issued drawings or even post-construction modifications. Patrick: The “telephone” game that we played as kids is real and presents one of the largest challenges to project of this scale. Make sure a direction is written and communicated once, and avoid multiple channels of confirmation and communication – otherwise the design intent will be skewed. Paul: Learning the process of a new team, on a new project, is a challenge every time. I think that honing in on the inner workings of the project team early on and continuing to learn and adapt as the project evolves is a key process within both design and construction phases. I decided early on that I would not take any experience this project offered me for granted, and I can’t believe how much we’ve all grown. What advice would you give your three-years-ago self, given all that you’ve learned since this project started? Emma: I had to learn pretty quickly not to completely invest myself in every aspect of the project. It’s easy to get pulled in and unable to look at the project as a whole with moving, changing components. (Also, make your shade pocket condition typical so you don’t receive 50 RFIs requesting specific details for every condition. This will save you many headaches.) Jacquelyn: Take your time, don’t stress, have fun, and enjoy the ride! Kevin: Learn to adapt on-the-fly. We experienced major evolutions during the pandemic, including in digital collaboration; many of these were changes for the better, but the major change in workflow in the middle of such a big project definitely had its learning moments. Patrick: Don’t take things personally. It’s a hard life lesson, but for a project of this scale, you can’t let things pile up. Paul: Every design is a process and is uniquely shaped by all of the people involved in the project. There’s a lot to learn from everyone else involved, and taking the time to listen is critical. What’s the first thing you’ll do when this project is finished? Emma: Humble brag on Insta and LinkedIn. Lol. Jacquelyn: Breathe! Then, hug my team and tell them “we did it!” (And maybe spray some champagne!) Kevin: After catching up on some sleep, I will take a moment to enjoy the finished results while reminiscing on all of the work it took to get here. Paul: When is a project ever finished?! But on the day of TCO, it’ll be a bourbon, neat. Then celebrate with my team! About the team Principal Nathan Daniel, AIA, LEED AP serves as the firm’s Workplace Practice Leader. He excels developing and maintaining long, productive relationships with clients. He is responsible for the design of the overall project vision in multiple project sectors, including corporate commercial, faith, hospitality, and mixed-use developments. Nathan’s role is one of leadership and guidance, leading the project team from visioning through project completion. He is also a mediator, helping to foster trust and respect between the stakeholders. Nathan recently oversaw the completion of the new Elevation Church global headquarters in Ballantyne, the amenities facility at Trilogy Lake Norman and AvidXchange’s new headquarters at the Music Factory just outside of uptown Charlotte. Nathan is the Principal in Charge for the new Centene East Coast Headquarters campus in Charlotte, NC. Emma Edmondson, a recent graduate of Virginia Tech with a Bachelor of Architecture, is an Emerging Professional in LS3P’s Charlotte office. Her experience is primarily in the corporate commercial realm with a focus on interior architecture. Emma is passionate about the intersection of art and architecture, and served as editor for Studio Collective, Virginia Tech’s art and design publication. With a green thumb and a love of gardening and houseplants, Emma is dedicated to environmental activism and promoting green design. She also brings experience as an arts archivist, and helped to coordinate exhibitions in Paris and New York. Associate Jacquelyn Satterwhite serves as an Assistant Construction Administrator in LS3P’s Charlotte office. Her organizational skills and commitment to excellence make her an invaluable part of every project team. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Urban Studies from Arizona State University, and joined the firm in 2018. Senior Associate Kevin Schaffner brings significant expertise in designs for the aviation sector. A graduate of the University of North Carolina – Charlotte with a Master of Architecture, Kevin has collaborated across several LS3P offices to support design efforts for aviation and transportation projects. Notable recent work includes designs for the Charlotte Douglas International Airport Concourse E Phase 9 expansion, the Claymont Regional Transportation Center in Delaware, and a Terminal Area Study for the Greenville-Spartanburg Airport. Kevin previously served as a general consultant to the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority (GOAA) and developed initial design concepts in coordination with their Master Plan Update. As part of this multi-modal project, Kevin helped to produce drawing packages through the design development phase, coordinated design team and consultant progress through construction documents, and provided design oversight throughout the construction process. This included interaction with various regulatory agencies, including the FAA, FDOT, and the Orlando Utilities Commission (OUC) and the coordination of strict ITF rail requirements for the future tenant. Senior Associate Patrick Cooley has a passion for fine art and artistic expression that he brings to his design assignments. His early concepts explore ideas that meet the objectives of the client and quickly advance the project development. Patrick delivers his presentations in a lively, interesting way that spark spontaneity and engagement with the Owner. His interior architecture specialties include programming and space planning, detailing, and finishes selection. Prior to joining LS3P his work focused on hospitality/dining upfits, large sports venue renovations and comprehensive renovations of commercial buildings. He is experienced in all phases of design, project management and construction administration. Associate Principal Paul Koska, AIA, LEED GA, offers a breadth of experience in corporate office, commercial mixed-use, and wellness projects. His projects are often complex in terms of design, coordination, and mix of uses and have diverse and extensive project teams. Paul is involved from the earliest phases of project development, producing visual imagery and modeling to convey project concepts. As an integral part of a project team, he carries out the work plan of the project leader and translates design intent into construction documentation. Paul also communicates and coordinates with subconsultants and jurisdictional authorities. His energetic and positive personality bring momentum to the team’s success. As a former member of a municipal planning and development department, Paul understands how to build a partnership to resolve issues during the review of development and construction plans.