Designing the next chapter

by Scott Steffes

Walking into Donor Network of Arizona’s (DNA) office today is a breath of fresh air. The light-filled office is colorful and lively, blending texture and formThe office is in constant motion and the mission is seamlessly expressed throughout the space. This new home represents a re-invention for DNA: a focus on wellness, inclusioncollaboration, and efficiency.   

Just off the north side main entry, an exterior folding door extends the conferencing center and meeting zones for staff and community engagement events.

Their new office landscape is very different from its predecessor. DNA had been operating out of their current building for nearly 20 years, and their primary mission of facilitating organ and tissue donation for the State of Arizona has been vital in their public service. This passionate and life-changing organization was finding it more difficult to thrive in their existing space, primarily due to their growth, and they did not have the infrastructure to best support their impactful community goals. They set their sights on a more inspiring home for their employees and volunteers, as they knew they would continue to be stretched in their current office. In 2018, DNA purchased land for what would become an extremely visionary and motivating investment. This new home gave them the opportunity to define their next chapter. 

Previous office work area and original floor plan.

After the Shepley Bulfinch design team spent time with Donor Network, touring their existing building and shadowing their staff, we understood their focus on the future. Looking back now, I can imagine that simply finding a larger building to accommodate their needs could have been enticing. However, that ‘easy fix’ was not at the heart of their mission or our partnership. Early brainstorming and creative sessions pushed us to imagine a better and stronger future for DNA. We created guiding principles around how they could thrive both internally and with their external work. 

The full design team meets for the first workshop to engage in an image Olympics session and to discuss the project's guiding principles and design goals.

Today, Donor Network thrives in headquarters rich with natural light and spirit. Their 2-story building is organized efficiently and based around a highly collaborative and heartfelt work force. Collaboration has become somewhat of a buzz word in design over the last several years, but to Donor Network, this word meant something different. We found during various engagement sessions and a Living Office workshop with Herman Miller (A global furniture and strategy company), that employees were simply restricted by their current environment. They were eager to better understand their colleagues’ roles and better support each other in various ways. Collaboration here meant knowledge, awareness, connection, and equity.  

This centrally located open collaboration zone allows for conversations pre- or post-meeting and impromptu interdepartmental connections.

DNA did not set out to change their business model. They are well respected in the industry as a leading OPO (Organ Procurement Organization), but we helped them challenge their status quo. Together, we: 

  • Re-envisioned their organization layout and brought employees together on a common floor. 
  • Contested internal rules to ensure that clinical and workplace colleagues could connect in social zones.   
  • Asked questions and listened to create harmony between program zones and variations in privacy and technology.   
  • Created a home where the story of donation, community and love are ever present. 
Staff can enjoy a coffee break or casual chat with a colleague in the kitchenette, which also serves the conference center.

As you trek throughout DNA’s new office, you get a distinct sense of their values: 

  • Open plan neighborhoods with a variety of scaled group spaces reveal the delicate balance of collaborative working.
  • Strategically placed and curated soft spaces offer needed hubs to create memories and tell stories, enriching the everyday experience.
  • A beautiful mix of commissioned local artwork and indoor plants engage the senses, promoting both creativity and wellness. 

DNA’s mission shines around every corner and it is ever apparent that this extraordinary, yet humble organization is poised to seize their next chapter. 

A space to catch up with a colleague, drop in to work or meet with leadership at this second level research station that overlooks the first floor, while stealing views of the nearby mountain range.