Ohio-based healthcare system ProMedica’s approximately 1,000 employees are now working at a new campus in the heart of downtown Toledo. Prior to the move, staff had worked in 25 buildings spread throughout the city and suburbs. The headquarters, open since September of 2017, is located at a prime location on the Maumee River and adjacent to city-owned Promenade Park.
ProMedica worked with architecture firm HKS to create a headquarters that included the restoration of a 1896 Daniel Burnham-designed steam plant, a renovation of the 1981 Brutalist style Junction Building, and construction of a multi-level parking structure. Promenade Park sits between the buildings. In 2013, the City of Toledo worked with landscape architecture and urban planning firm MKSK to design the park; the firm then redesigned it when ProMedica became its client. Within the park an accessible walkway connects the parking structure at the park’s upper level to the steam plant at the lower riverfront and runs alongside a detention basin. Part of the park’s redesign would include a defined element to provide boundary between the walkway and the detention basin.
MKSK proposed a bench or series of benches that would take advantage of the location’s views of the park and Maumee River. The firm had taken notice of a series of custom wood-slated benches that Landscape Forms’ Studio 431 had engineered and manufactured for the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. They were drawn to the organic and winding forms of the benches and thought a similar approach would lend itself to the curving, sloped Promenade Park walkway.
The location of the bench in the park is significant. When the steam plant was restored, its original stacks were found to be structurally unsafe. Artists Kristine Rumman and Dane Turpening, both Toledo natives, created Echo, a 22-ton sculpture crafted from 11 steel rings reclaimed from the former steam plant’s smokestacks. The large, swirling sculpture took its place on Promenade Park’s upper level. “The sculpture was already installed in front of the bench area, so our idea was to introduce an element that related to the performance nature of the park,” says MKSK Associate Lisl Kotheimer. “The bench created a place for people to sit and take in the activity in the park. We also wanted the bench to be comfortable for all people, so we designed it with and without back sections. We studied the angles and heights of the bench.”
“MKSK wanted to give pedestrians a reason to pause along the walkway,” says Studio 431’s Darin Piippo. “They wanted a bench that was sculptural and integrated into the landscape. MKSK could have designed a traditional barrier, but they wanted to do something exceptional.”
The exceptional result took an exceptional team of Studio 431 engineers and manufacturers to figure out the intricacies of creating a 100-foot-long continuous bench that spanned a five-percent grade change.
“The sheer scope of the bench presented a challenge,” says Studio 431 Project Engineer Chad Kendall. “It took a lot of work to engineer and make all the pieces and parts. We knew early on in the process that the construction method was key. We wanted to make the bench self-fixturing so that the pieces would fit together accurately and easily. All the structure was laser cut and formed with connecting tabs and slots. This design element was instrumental in successfully manufacturing a bench of this scale.”
The team also had to build adjustability into the bench to account for the slope of the site. Kendall and team designed adjustable legs that could be fine-tuned during installation to ensure that the seat plane was flush and elevations correct. Back panels on the bench pieces are all removable to access leg adjustments.
In total, the bench is made of 2,600 steel and wood components, assembled into 20 five-foot long sections. It required over 400 unique wood profiles with custom CNC programs and hundreds of unique formed steel components as well.
“The upfront investment on the engineering side made the end product so much easier to install. The beauty is that the bench reads as one continuous element, almost floating above the landscape,” says Piippo.
Promenade Park and ProMedica’s new headquarters are revitalizing downtown Toledo. “One of the park’s main program elements was as a base for large concerts,” explains Kotheimer. “There are different places in the park where performances can be held. The step down from the upper level creates amphitheater seating, and the lower area is flat for horizontal seating.” The Toledo Symphony performs in the park, and The Arts Commission of Greater Toledo installs rotating exhibits and sculptures.
“The city has done a tremendous job programming the park space,” says Kotheimer. “There are always events going on. The park can be completely packed at times. And now there is the daily pedestrian traffic from ProMedica employees.”
A 50-foot LED screen attached to the ProMedica parking structure located in the upper area of the park adds to the performance culture of the space and engages park visitors, even displaying baseball games played in the stadium adjacent to the ProMedica campus.
Beyond Promenade Park, the ProMedica campus offers employees access to outdoor spaces. A lawn area on the Maumee River, an area next to the steam plant for company events and galas, and a roof deck and ground-level terrace are active spaces for working, relaxing, and entertaining, furnished with Austin benches, Palisade benches, Chipman chairs, Chipman bar stools, Chipman tables, and Chase Park litters.
“It was a pleasure to work with MKSK on a great project for a regional corporate campus,” says Piippo. “Something unique and meaningful in the heartland.”