Norfolk Southern, one of the nation’s premier transportation and logistics companies, challenged HOK to consolidate its business operations into a single headquarters that reinforces the company’s simple, yet powerful, workplace vision: “Don’t just work here, thrive here.”
Norfolk Southern’s new midtown Atlanta HQ achieves this goal through a building that emphasizes choice, collaboration, innovation and wellness. Home to 3,000 members of the company’s operations, technology and corporate teams, the headquarters offers employees diverse workspace options and rich amenities while supporting Norfolk Southern’s vision, brand and desire to recruit and retain top talent.
Flexible and Collaborative Spaces
The headquarters includes 10-story and 17-story office towers connected by a five-story podium. The workplace offers an abundance of flexible spaces for heads-down or collaborative work, along with a designated workspace for each employee.
Activity-based work environments and universal Wi-Fi enable employees to work where and how they choose throughout the building. The training and conference center allows for larger group meetings and includes state-of-the-art technology. Double-height break rooms connect floors vertically and provide plush booth seating and tables for work or leisure. Lounges in the lobby and on various floors offer comfortable seating options with modern furnishings custom-made in Atlanta.
An awe-inspiring circular stair connects the flexible workspace options across the different floors. Made of Corian-clad steel, the stairwell swirls down to the lobby’s front desk with LED lights visible underneath.
Innovation in Action
With a history dating back to the early 1800s, Norfolk Southern continues to be a leader in innovative technologies for transportation and logistics. Data scientists at the headquarters use AI and machine learning to enhance operations while IT specialists collaborate with management to apply new technologies that can improve train safety and energy use.
A network operations center on the fourth floor serves as the technology showpiece of the building, reiterating the company’s commitment to advancing rail and consumer logistics. With train dispatchers working around the clock, the center includes advanced technology with blue, ambient light to ease the eyes of employees working in the space.
The new headquarters reimagines the employee experience and work environment at Norfolk Southern through many amenities that encourage interaction and engagement and promote wellness—all while staying on site.
The Commons, the large fifth-floor food hall, features diverse culinary offerings, including sushi, ramen, pizza, salads and more. Lush rooftop terraces on both sides of the Commons allow for outdoor dining and connection. The space can also be converted to a town hall as needed. Other dining options include the Wye, a first-floor coffee shop open to the public.
A fifth-floor game room includes foosball, ping pong and billiards surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows, cozy furnishings and a tin-plated ceiling.
A vibrant and light-filled fitness center on the fourth floor features cardio equipment, multipurpose exercise rooms and outdoor spaces that support employee health and wellness.
A daycare center on the first and second floors provides working parents with a convenient childcare option. Bright colors, custom reading nooks built into the walls, and train track designs on the floor make it a playful and inviting space. A catering kitchen supports the children’s meals and snacks throughout the day.
Outdoor terraces found on the top of each tower and on various other floors help employees connect with nature and support biophilic design.
Thoughtful Artwork and Branding
The design infuses Norfolk Southern’s brand and history throughout the workplace, honoring the company’s historic past and innovative future.
HOK’s Experience Design team emphasized thoughtful movement and reinforced the interior design pillars of stability, timelessness, energy, tactility and seamlessness. Graphic elements throughout the project create a sense of speed and agility while evoking the evolution of Norfolk Southern from a railway to a tech company.
An outdoor plaza outside the building’s main entry is home to a curving sculpture of weathered steel. The twisted metal artwork, “You See,” complements the building’s central circular stairwell, also visible from the outdoor plaza. The sleek white stair starts on the second floor and spirals up the building’s podium that connects the two towers. Both the sculpture and the stairway evoke a sense of movement that is central to Norfolk Southern’s focus on transportation.
Photography, paintings and other artwork spread across the vertical campus reiterate the themes of movement and transportation.
Nods to the company’s storied brand are found throughout the building, with the names and logos of legacy railroads embedded in terrazzo floors and visual storytelling accenting public areas. In the Wye Café, HOK’s Experience Design team created a mural of a golden train lit by the moonlight.
Wellness and Sustainability
As one of the first LEED Gold certified office buildings in Georgia, the headquarters is a beacon for sustainability. The workplace design followed three guiding principles to achieve this designation: environmental sustainability, wellness and equity.
Glass walls throughout the building encourage active movement and maximize natural daylight. Smart lighting systems minimize energy consumption, and locally sourced materials contribute to a more sustainable workplace.
To support health and wellness, all employees have designated sit-stand desks that promote good posture and movement. The on-site fitness center is open 24 hours to accommodate the schedule of shift workers. Hospital-grade air filtration systems and touchless technology throughout the building add to this healthy workplace.
A variety of working spaces, coupled with universal Wi-Fi throughout the campus, support the different work styles of each employee and create an equitable work environment. Located in the heart of Atlanta’s tech district, the building is intentionally located one block from an Atlanta MARTA metro station, further supporting the company’s focus on equity and sustainability.
Learn more about Norfolk Southern’s healthy headquarters in HOK Forward: Sustainability for All.
HOK designed the workplace interiors for Norfolk Southern’s new headquarters. HITT Contracting was responsible for the interior construction. HKS served as the architect of record on the project, with Pickard Chilton as the core and shell design architect and Holder Construction as the base building general contractor. OJB was the landscape architect and Dee Briggs was the sculptor of “You See”. Cousins Properties is the developer and JLL was the program manager.
Discover more about Norfolk Southern’s workplace design featured in Interior Design magazine here.