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Norfolk Southern’s New Headquarters Featured in Interior Design Magazine

The multi-page article highlights HOK’s interior design that focuses on movement and innovation at the freight rail company’s new Atlanta home.

The 750,000-sq.-ft. workplace combines Norfolk Southern’s operations, technology and corporate team members in two connected office towers. HOK’s design includes diverse workspace options, casual and comfortable collaboration areas, lush outdoor terraces and bespoke artwork and sculptures that pay homage to Norfolk Southern’s legacy. The centerpiece of the interior design is an iconic spiral stairwell.

Excerpted from the June 2022 issue of Interior Design:

“The client didn’t want this to be treated like a train museum,” HOK firm-wide director of interiors Tom Polucci begins. “The existing buildings had beautiful models of locomotives, but NS said, ‘No, we’re more sophisticated than that.’” Betsy Nurse, HOK Atlanta’s director of interiors, adds: “Norfolk Southern sees itself as a tech company, not a railroad company.” The client envisioned a timeless concept where track workers and administrators alike would feel at home, with ample flex spaces to help the 3,000 on-site employees meet and collaborate. Robust amenities—fitness center, food hall, game room, childcare center—would help the company compete for talent against the likes of Google.

With architecture by Pickard Chilton, the ground-up headquarters is composed of two office towers (10 and 17 stories tall) joined by a five-story podium, which houses the lobby, amenities, and parking. HOK was at the table from the beginning and helped shape some of the architectural solutions, especially in the podium. The parking deck constrained the volume that would become the lobby, which could have been one to three stories high. “We studied different options and how the floors wove together,” Polucci says. The team landed on a 32-foot-high lobby that’s open to loungelike collaboration zones on the second floor and creates energy and buzz. This gave HOK the opportunity to create a monumental circular stair, the defining element of the interior.

The stair grew out of the idea of movement, the guiding theme of the project. “Norfolk Southern was looking to celebrate the idea of motion in subtle, special ways,” Polucci notes. Outside the building’s entrance, a site-specific sculpture evokes tunnels and curved tracks in weathering steel. Nurse points out that the artwork is right outside the lobby, where you can see its relationship to the stair: “One is super refined, the other is raw.”

Employees come together in the fifth-floor canteen that doubles as an all-hands meeting space. Designed like a food hall with six different vendors, it sits between two outdoor terraces; one has a retractable glass wall so the spaces can flow together. Totaling 55,000 square feet, the outdoor areas include another terrace by the gym on the floor below, where employees can do laps on circular walking paths. “Movement is also important to Norfolk Southern from a health and wellness perspective,” Nurse states. Glass-walled stairs in both towers further encourage physical activity.

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