Top overall design: BB&T Leadership Institute
BB&T Leadership Institute
General contractor: Frank L. Blum Construction, Winston-Salem
Architects: CJMW Architecture, Winston-Salem
Cost: $35 million
Size: 60,000 square feet
A review by Travis Hicks, director of Center for Community-Engaged Design, UNC Greensboro
Ever attended a training session or a workshop in a drab, outdated, windowless hotel meeting room? If you’ve dreamed of escaping that space to an inspiring, sunlit alternative, look no further than the BB&T Leadership Institute, a stone’s throw from Piedmont Triad International Airport.
On a narrow, sloping wooded site, the design team at CJMW Architecture conjured a three-story campus of steel, wood and glass buildings that float like treehouses, stitched together by delicate bridges and walkways hovering above the forest floor sloping 30 feet down to Brush Creek Pond. Floor-to-ceiling glass, extensive porches and balconies, and open-air stairs blur the boundaries between inside and out, drawing staff and visitors into the natural landscape visually and physically. The campus’ connection to its wooded site is further emphasized through materials such as exposed wooden beams and trusses, barn doors made from lumber salvaged from hardwoods on-site and textured wall panels fashioned from salvaged end-grain logs.
Providing leadership training for BB&T clients and staff and K-12 educators, the campus includes eight classrooms, various meeting and special-event rooms, and 48 overnight guest rooms that prioritize natural light and views of the treeline and pond. Curved-wall meditation rooms with plush carpets for bare feet and visual and acoustical isolation enhance introspective guest activities, while conference and training rooms connect guests through integrated technology.
Despite its isolated wooded setting, the campus provides a number of amenities, including a fitness center, bistro and dining area, snack bars and an outdoor fire pit complete with s’mores kits. The gem of this project is the “Treehouse,” a stand-alone meeting space with a wraparound porch, glass walls providing 360-degree views and exposed wood timber trusses, tethered to the rest of the campus via an elevated walkway. Hovering among the trees, the Treehouse blurs the boundaries between natural and man-made, providing space for both introspection and collaboration, and inspiring guests to curl up on the porch with a book, hot drink and a fresh s’more.