Many people know the LiveStrong Foundation by its unmistakable yellow wristbands. The rubber bracelets signify the Livestrong Foundation’s mission (lead by founder, cyclist and cancer-survivor Lance Armstrong) to raise cancer awareness and empower people to live life to the fullest — fighting illness or not. That life-guiding principle also found its way into the integrity of the architecture of the nonprofit’s Austin-based headquarters, ripe with smart design decisions that garnered the Foundation a gold-rated LEED certified status.
Livestrong faced a unique challenge from the get-go: to design and build a space that would not only be really, really good-looking, but support the business' core values, some of which read: "We change the way the world fights cancer;" "We honor the fight — your fight;" "We call for action in a global community;" "We voraciously pursue excellence;" "We do this by serving you."
"The idea was that if we built a location [outside of East Austin]. . .it would be hard to have cancer constituents engage with us as frequently and as often." - Greg Lee
What visitors will see, as a result, is a thoughtful reuse of materials and spatial planning for business needs (including a Cancer Navigation Center for the cancer-stricken community) by Lake|Flato Architects and designers of The Bommarito Group. The East Austin location won out over 27 potential properties owing to its proximity to the subset of the population that really needed LiveStrong's assistance.
"The idea was that if we built a location in other parts of town, we could have a headquarters, but it would be hard to have cancer constituents engage with us as frequently and as often," said CFO and Executive Vice President Greg Lee.
And so visibility, proximity to mass transit and a 1950s warehouse ripe with possibilities begged the Foundation to call it its home. Construction began by blowing out the roof, removing and reusing 200-foot wooden beams and 26 tons of concrete (Those parking stripes in the parking lot? That's not paint; those are 18-inch pieces of concrete turned on their edge.).
Eleven freestanding conference rooms were created out of re-planed wood from the former roof and left in different stages of completion to serve different collaborative purposes, be it a casual meeting with beer or a formal presentation with multimedia capabilities. The conference tables and benches within the building were provided by SolidCore, a company out of Portland, Oregon that fashions modern furniture out of naturally fallen trees.
The designers and architects agreed on a certain tactic within the high-volume, open space: to simulate the stimulation you'd the feel of navigating a city street.
"With a city street, you want different heights, different textures, different colors," explains Lee. "Some portions are finished on the inside, some are unfinished and informal gathering spots."
The designers and architects agreed on a certain tactic within the high-volume, open space: to simulate the feel of navigating a city street.
Pops of color are particularly provided by pieces of Armstrong's personal art collection and commemorative jerseys, medals and tributes to supporters — a standout piece being a sculptural installation by Futura featuring seven bikes fused together and each emblazoned with narrative iconography on the fork of each bike, representative Armstrong’s Tour wins and important corresponding moments in his life.
The LiveStrong headquarters is by no means an example of design in vain. Each design, décor and construction decision was made in an effort to facilitate a type of teamwork and community engagement inextricable from a nonprofit’s success. The distinct desire to protect and honor the environment is reflective of the business' mission to protect and honor the human life.
Armstrong himself worked side by side with Lee, Lake|Flato, The Bommarito Group and environmental graphic designers FD2S to ensure the foundation would be strengthened by the LiveStrong offices, in an atmosphere that would ultimately reinforce the acumen, collaborative nature and tenacity required to fight the courageous fight against cancer.
Gold, as it turns out, really is the Foundation's color.