Abercrombie & Fitch Corporate Retreat : didactic experiences in the native midwestern landscape

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Smith, Nicholas A.
Marlow, Christopher M.
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Thesis (B.L.A.)
College of Architecture and Planning
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The Abercrombie & Fitch corporation is a specialty clothing retailer that caters to a college age demographic. The popularity of the clothing brand has exploded exponentially since its separation from its one-time corporate parent, the Limited Brands in 1998. The clothing’s theme leans towards the style of Ivy League college students. The Abercrombie & Fitch corporate headquarters is located on the outskirts of New Albany, Ohio, which is a northeastern suburb of Columbus, Ohio. The architecture of the Adirondack-inspired corporate campus meshes well with the style of clothing the company produces. A&F’s corporate campus is sited on 580 acres of native woodland, constructed prairie grassland, and wetland surroundings. There are two objectives behind introducing this multi-billion dollar corporation’s headquarters into a native Midwestern landscape.Pulling the new A&F headquarters into this natural atmosphere gives employees and visitors the seclusion and off the beaten path feelings common to a summer camp experience. The A&F campus is designed as an extension of the company’s brand. It is a place for associates to work, play, and live the Abercrombie & Fitch lifestyle. A way of life associated with casual luxury.The intentionally isolated Abercrombie & Fitch corporate headquarters was completed in 1999. Many campus design problems and needs have become apparent over the past six years. Employees have voiced a desire for more recreational opportunities onsite. The average age of A&F employees is 29. Staying physically fit and active is an overall important issue to this group of people. However, there is currently no recreational trail system in place. Another request, among many other requirements to be discussed later, is the need for employees to gain access to the 580 acres of native woodland, constructed prairie grassland, and wetland surroundings the site has to offer. Twenty five percent of A&F employees are not from the United States. Another fifty percent of A&F employees are not from the Midwest. Only one-fourth of A&F’s nearly 1,000 corporate headquarters employees have ever had the opportunity to experience and learned from the native Midwestern landscape so prevalent to this location. This diverse, educational Midwestern landscape is underutilized because of current inaccessibility and lack of didactic programming. This project offers solutions to the many design needs voiced by the employees and day to day participants of the Abercrombie & Fitch Corporate Headquarters. The main vision and goal of this project is to teach employees and visitors about the diverse Midwestern landscape by immersing them into this 580 acres of native woodland, constructed prairie grassland, and wetland environment. Some of the naturalistic design elements and processes associated with this immersion are those of Jens Jensen, a designer who’s love of the Midwestern landscape inspired him to enhance and preserve “native” landscapes throughout his lifelong career. In Jens Jensen’s words “art must come from within, and the only source from which the art of landscaping can come is our native landscape. It cannot be imported from foreign shores and be our own.” Employee engagement with the site will give opportunities for educational and recreational fulfillment. This fulfillment will strengthen the Abercrombie & Fitch Corporation as a whole through elevated productivity of more positive and encouraged employees.