Photo Credit: Dror Baldinger, FAIA

Grande Cheese Home Office and Research Center

Health Education Research Associate, Inc
1447 Peachtree Street NE, Suite 700
Atlanta, Georgia 30309
(314) 289-9202
Tim Blonkvist, FAIA
Business Phone: (404) 704-4600

Project Location: Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin
Completion Date: 08/01/2016
Owner: Grande Cheese Company

Architects Involved:
Carlos Perez-Rubio, AIA HERA lab planners (Lab Planner) Atlanta Georgia

Additional Team:
Ted Watson Gensler (Interior Designer) Dallas, TX Olin Studio (Landscape Architecture) Philadelphia, PA Silvia Themudo Buro Happold Consulting Engineers (MEP/ Structural Engineer) Los Angeles, CA Rod Worrell Worrell Design Group (Food Service) Houston, TX

Project Description

Location: 250 Camelot Drive, Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin
Building size: 90,000 SF
Completion: August 2016

Grande’s goals were two-fold:
1. Showcase the scientific process and rigor required to create world-class cheese.
2. Create a new workplace paradigm that holistically addresses the needs of their associates and provides all the comforts of home.

The pinwheel-shaped plan is based on a typical Wisconsin dairy farm barn, composed of four wings around a centralized courtyard with a circulation spine connecting the wings. The interior design maintains a strong connection to natural light with views to the outside. The facility’s ground level exterior walls are constructed of regional stone, paying tribute to the heritage and tradition of the area. The upper levels are composed of Brazilian Garapa wood elements that cantilever outward, signifying innovation extending into the world in every direction. The green accent in the upstairs balcony railing reflects the lush green landscape. The interior and exterior are punctuated with stone fireplaces representing the hearth of the home, while numerous floor-to-ceiling glass windows provide sweeping views of the gardens, and orchards.

Grande has a 28 percent energy reduction compared to the baseline building and a 25 percent cost savings over ASHRAE standards.
The mechanical equipment utilized refrigerants that minimize building emissions that contribute to ozone depletion and climate change. The strategic use of shading devices assists with the reduction of heat gain during the summer, and the trench heating around the building perimeter reduces the heat loss and infiltration during the winter.
Project on track for LEED Gold certification.

The design provides many opportunities for the public and employees to test and taste the cheese products, either in an informal standing setting, or in a formal dining room. The formal dining room is strategically located adjacent to the Cheese Test Lab/Kitchen and Commercial Test Lab, which allows people to observe Grande’s chefs and technicians from the gallery corridor.

The goal of science on display is achieved through the angled wood graphic signage located between the windows of the lab. These signs illustrate the science of the cheese-making process. The lab windows provide ample opportunity for passersby to view the interior, while balancing the need for privacy and ensuring the researchers never feel they are in a “fish bowl.” The wood-like ceiling, paired with the green resin umbilical panels, create an inviting open lab. The panels flow down the walls between the exterior windows and double as a writable surface, which is not visible from the gallery corridor.

The goal for the office area is to reduce the number of private offices and create an open environment to maximize daylight and interaction. The facility has 30 collaboration areas, a health clinic, a fitness center, a library, a break room, a café and a massage room. These spaces work together to create a holistic workplace environment that addresses the body, mind and spirit.

Design Challenge

The major design challenge was to provide all areas of the building program a direct and/or visual connection to nature and the outdoors. This relates to the core values of improving the wellness of all Grande Cheese’s employees. This was accomplished by: 1. The pinwheel plan - Creating a narrow building footprint, together with large glass openings, provided a visual connection to the outdoors for more building occupants. This enabled natural light to flow into the building, thereby reducing the building energy consumption. 2. Landscaping – Many of the gardens, orchards and vineyards feature Italian varietals that reflect Grande’s cultural and geographic origins. Produce grown onsite is tested in the laboratories and test kitchens, creating a holistic cycle from garden to lab to table. 3. Central Courtyard – A tranquil, inviting greenspace in the center of the complex, the courtyard features a variety of seating options, firepit and manicured landscaping. Its radiant heat paving allows the space to be utilized by employees and the public throughout the year. One of the seating arrangements, which is the signature element, is known as “the waterfall table.” The solid wood table seats 100 people and has a wooden channel extending down the center carrying water that flows into a tiered waterfall. The central courtyard also doubles as a connector to the four wings of the complex and provides the visual connection to nature that is required for the inbound spaces of the complex. 4. Artwork – There are approximately 200 works of art, all based on themes of nature and Grande’s mission, dispersed throughout the complex. Most of the artwork is in the office wings to bring color and intrigue to the spaces and to inspire entrepreneurial creativity.

Physical Context

The complex sits on a 40-acre greenfield site located in “America’s dairy land.” The site is located at the corner of Highway 151 and Camelot Drive. The building is fully integrated within the natural landscape and sited to take advantage of the views of the surrounding rural landscape and the dramatic Niagara Ledge. The main drive meanders through the orchard, and parking courts bordered by maple trees, through the four-season garden, to the arrival plaza that is bordered by sensory-rich foliage of vivid color and seasonal contrast. Walk/run trails and areas for contemplation are dispersed throughout the property to promote fitness. Further to the south is a new retention pond, which is integrated into the landscape and captures rainwater and stormwater to reuse for irrigation. On the other side of the building sits the Heritage Orchards, which are dedicated to Grande Cheese’s founder Fillipo Candela. Half of the 40-acre site is preserved for future orchards and meadows. The produce grown on site features Italian varietals that reflect Grande’s cultural and geographic origins. All items cultivated are tested in the laboratories and test kitchens to create a holistic cycle from garden to lab to table.