Tomorrow’s Offices: Inspired by Nature

by Kara Raasch / photos courtesy of HOK

Biophilic design, or the idea of connecting people to nature through thoughtfully designed environments, has proven to have an impact on the health, well-being, and productivity of staff. With the much-buzzed-about unveiling of Amazon’s Spheres, this drive to bring the outdoors in is shaping office environments across country and right here in Kansas City.

Biophilic design can range from including greenery and vegetation in the form of plants and living walls to including water features, natural wood elements, organic textures, and increasing light and access to fresh air.

Another bonus of biophilic design? It’s critical toward promoting a culture of productivity. Recent research published by the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied found the connection between biophilic design and the ability to increase productivity and reduce employees missing work, impacting an organization’s bottom line. They also noted that workspaces with ample light and nature elements resulted in occupants’ self-proclaimed sense of well-being improving by more than 40 percent. Another 2015 study commissioned by Oliver Health and titled “The Global Impact of Biophilic Design in the Workplace” found that employees are 15 percent more productive when they work in a space with biophilic elements.

At American Century Investments’ Tower One, 6th-floor renovation, the company made the move from private offices to an airy and interconnected open office plan with biophilia and its benefits in mind. The renovation was designed to facilitate a cultural shift, increasing collaboration and flexibility for the investment management firm. To do so, the client and design team reconnected the interior space with nature in bold ways.

The reconfiguration of the floor allowed for an infusion of natural light, with sun penetrating to the center of the floor plate, while simultaneously increasing occupancy by 60 percent. A custom moss wall brings an organic element to the space, and represents the value the company places on work-life balance. Custom graphics are organic, reflecting the community and culture of the organization with micro and macro details derived from nature and the tree in the ACI brand mark. This subtle imagery reinforces connectivity throughout. The firm’s break room is filled with natural light, textures, and materials to create a healthy retreat for employees.

At Cargill Protein’s new headquarters in Wichita, biophilic design is incorporated and celebrated through plants and greenery throughout the expansive new space and vast access to natural light and outdoor spaces.

Are you wondering how you bring nature into your workplace and reap the rewards? There are some simple, cost-effective solutions that can begin to transform your personal or company’s office environment:

Plants – From potted plants to green walls, bringing in natural vegetation is a critical element for any space.

Graphics – Environmental graphics derived from nature can provide a connection point for people to the outdoors. These also have the benefit of creating aesthetically pleasing, layered environments that can incorporate pops of color and help with wayfinding within a space.

Water features – Simple water features can be cost-effective to add while bringing in the sights and sounds of nature.

Natural light – Reorienting your space to bring people closer to windows and natural light can have a dramatic impact on taking a space from drab and dreary to bright and airy.

The benefits of biohphilic design extend far beyond the aesthetic. Consider taking a note from American Century Investments’ book and incorporating natural elements to reduce stress, enhance connectedness, and increase productivity of any company’s most important asset – its people.

How We Treat You Ensures Our Success

President’s Letter by Marion Battaglia

When I evaluate how we can provide the most complete and customer-oriented automotive environment, one of the assets that becomes very evident is the vast selection of choices we offer to our customers.

I came to the realization that between our Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Land Rover, Jaguar, BMW, Volkswagen, Maserati, and Alfa Romeo lines that we have 24 convertibles, 25 coupes, 37 sedans, two wagons, two commercial vans, and 47 SUVs models. So when you visit one of our dealerships, you open the door to not just one car line, but you also open the door to all these other lines and choices. We are very proud of this differentiation and what it offers to you and your sales consultant, the opportunity to find the vehicle that makes the most sense for you and fits your needs the best.

The other unique feature of the Auto Group is that we are privately owned. We represent a culture that is not created by a public company; we represent and are part of a culture that is representative of our privately owned auto group. That allows us to do things that are focused on our customer and not solely on net profit.

When you are in the market and you call in, you simply ask for your sales consultant, and he or she will most likely still be here since our salespeople make their careers at Soave Automotive Group. When you have great vehicles and an empowering culture, you have long-term associates. That salesperson will not only find you the vehicle that meets your needs but will have it ready for you when you arrive, and he/she will also ask you if you want to drive it overnight or for the weekend to make certain it is the “right one”. This is what sets us apart.

Our service departments are designed to be easily accessible for appointments, providing loaner cars and offering a service advisor that will be there for not only this car but the next one. Your service advisor will make sure you not only understand what was done but also what needs to be done on your next visit. And, yes, you will be escorted to your car by your service advisor, and it will be delivered back to you cleaned and with a bottle of water in the cup holder.

And when you make your automotive decision, you will begin, or continue, what we believe should be a lifelong relationship, and our standard is that when you take delivery of your car, our service department will, by its performance, sell you the next car and every subsequent car that is in your extended family and, hopefully, your office, your church, your club. You’re becoming an ambassador for us, because how we treat you ensures our success.

Have a wonderful summer.

Under the Big Top

This month is is our annual Under the Big Top Pre-Owned Sales Event. That’s where we turn our massive showroom into a circus tent, packed with the best pre-owned vehicles we can find. We have vehicles of all makes and models, and ones to fit all budgets as well. We’re talking models from brands like Volkswagen, BMW, Chevrolet, Toyota, Ford and more! They’re all here and ready to be taken home for thousands under their fair-market value. But we’re offering much more than just good deals.

On the weekends, we’ll have free hot dogs, cotton candy, face painting, balloon animals, and more! It really is like the circus has come to town. There’s plenty for the whole family to do while you test drive your new car. You’ll even have a chance to win a BMW push car for the kids. The big fun starts on June 21, 2019 and runs through the end of the month.

There’s even a bean bag toss where you can win up to an extra $300 off your already aggressively priced pre-owned car. So if you’re feeling lucky, come on down, and win a discount!

Our pre-owned inventory for the Under the Big Top Pre-Owned Sales Event includes a little bit of everything, at nearly every price-point. We’re sure there will be something there that is exactly what you’re looking for, and we’d love to help you drive home in your new car. You can see some of the amazing cars we have available at:

The BMW X7 is Designed to Make Your Life Easier

The X7 is the newest SUV from BMW, and it packs a ton of technology under its stylish skin. BMW really pushed the “utility” in Sport Utility Vehicle with this new vehicle. These days, people are spending more and more time in their cars, so the X7 is designed to accommodate your needs as they change. Because of that, the X7 is able to quickly move its seats around, all at the touch of a button. No more crawling around and dragging heavy seats back and forth.

From the driver’s seat, you can control your own seat, the passenger seat, and even the second row of seats. You don’t even need to get out of your seat! The second row of seats can be controlled from buttons on the driver’s door, while the driver’s seat is controlled by buttons on the site of the seat itself. A separate button on the door activates the “gentleman feature”, where those control buttons on the driver’s seat will now control the passenger seat. We suppose this could also be used to prank your passenger, but we can’t recommend that.

Moving back in the vehicle, the third row of seats can be folded flat using controls inside the rear doors. Those same controls can raise the seats back up. This allows the X7 to quickly transition from a cargo hauling beast to a massive people carrier. Similar controls inside the rear hatch allow you to control the rear seats, folding down some or all of them, and just as quickly raising them back up.

So whatever situation you come across, the X7 can quickly transform to be the perfect car to tackle it. Since we know that sometimes pictures are better than words, we had one of our amazing client advisors, Ted, demonstrate a few of the features of the X7 in the video below. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions!

Position Available: Service Technician

Our BRAND NEW, STATE-OF-THE-ART facility is complete, and now we need YOU to be a part of our growth and success!

BMW/Volkswagen of Topeka, a high-end, luxury automotive dealership is looking to add a qualified AUTOMOTIVE SERVICE TECHNICIAN to our team! BMW/VW of Topeka offers a unified team environment, great benefits, and ongoing training, and support for its employees.

Apply today or refer a qualified friend. You can apply directly by visiting the following or you can respond directly to this ad with your resume. We look forward to hearing from you!

Job Responsibilities include but are not limited to…

  • Test drive vehicles to test components and systems
  • Ability to use diagnostic tools and special service equipment.
  • Diagnose, maintain, and repair vehicle systems including engine, transmission, electrical steering, suspension, brakes, air conditioning, etc.
  • Perform work specified on the repair order with efficiency and in accordance with dealership policies
  • Communicate directly with the Service Advisor so that customers can be informed if any additional service is needed
  • Provide an estimate of time needed for additional repairs

In addition to competitive pay, we offer our associates the following benefits:

  • Health, Dental, Vision, Life, and Disability insurance
  • 401(k) plan with company match
  • Paid Time-off
  • Employee Vehicle Purchase Program
  • Professional Live and Web Based Training
  • Closed Sundays
  • Paid 10 days of vacation after just the first year
  • Closed for most major holidays
  • Opportunities for advancement


  • At least 1 year dealership experience
  • Must own hand tools

Position Available: Sales Professional

BMW/Volkswagen of Topeka is looking for sales professionals who are committed to customer service excellence and have a track record of high success in automotive or luxury goods sales.

This is truly a “dream career” for the right candidate looking for a positive, enthusiastic work environment and an opportunity in the exciting and lucrative luxury automobile retail industry.

We offer the following:

  • Guarantee for first 60 days of employment
  • High commission structure
  • 5 day work week – Closed Sundays
  • Closed for most major holidays
  • Opportunities for advancement
  • Health, Dental, Vision, Life, and Disability insurance
  • 401(k) plan with company match
  • Paid 10 days of vacation after just the first year
  • Employee Vehicle Purchase Program


  • Minimum 1 year of successful sales experience
  • Excellent work history with references
  • Clean driving record and criminal background

If you’re interested in applying, visit Don’t forget to mention on the application who referred you!

Position Available: Service Technician

Our BRAND NEW, STATE-OF-THE-ART facility is complete, and now we need YOU to be a part of our growth and success! BMW/Volkswagen of Topeka, a high-end, luxury automotive dealership is looking to add a qualified AUTOMOTIVE SERVICE TECHNICIAN to our team! BMW/VW of Topeka offers a unified team environment, great benefits, and ongoing training, and support for its employees.

If you are in alignment with our values of integrity, transparency, professionalism and teamwork- now might be the time for you to accelerate your career as part of the best company in automotive retail. Apply today or refer a qualified friend. You can apply directly by visiting the following or you can respond directly to this ad with your resume. We look forward to hearing from you!

Job Responsibilities include but are not limited to…

·     Test drive vehicles to test components and systems

·     Ability to use diagnostic tools and special service equipment.

·     Diagnose, maintain, and repair vehicle systems including engine, transmission, electrical steering, suspension, brakes, air conditioning, etc.

·     Perform work specified on the repair order with efficiency and in accordance with dealership policies

·     Communicate directly with the Service Advisor so that customers can be informed if any additional service is needed

·     Provide an estimate of time needed for additional repairs

In addition to competitive pay, we offer our associates the following benefits:

·     Health, Dental, Vision, Life, and Disability insurance

·     401(k) plan with company match

·     Paid Time-Off

·     Employee Vehicle Purchase Program

·     Professional work environment, with job training and advancement opportunities


·     At least 1 year dealership experience

·     Must own hand tools

Job Type: Full-time

Are You As Happy As You Want to Be? Or Hopeful to Kick It Up a Notch?


Happiness is often more elusive than it needs to be. That’s possibly because what actually makes us happy is quite different from what we are told in articles, newspapers, books, and especially in advertisements. History reminds us that the 1950s portrayed housewives literally embracing new refrigerators. And, thus, the message of “the ’frig makes you happy,” along with other appliances, and with things in general, gained a more universal foothold.

Many of us grow up with an acquisition frame of mind, and research tells us that early attitudes can set us on the wrong track. Is there a right track? Debatable. However, consider some baseline thoughts and examine that question for yourself.

In The Happiness Hypothesis, Dr. Jonathan Haidt provides this formula for happiness.

H = S + C + V

Translation: (H) Happiness equals your set point (S) plus your circumstances (C) plus voluntary activities (V).

Research indicates your “set point” is something you are born with. It’s that emotional spot you typically gravitate back to – eventually – when something wonderful happens to elevate your mood or when something devastating occurs that throws you into disappointment, even depression. Regardless of the up or the down, the theory suggests that you gradually move back to the emotional space you inhabit most of the time. The good information, again, according to research, is that it’s possible to move that set point in a positive direction. How?

With meditation. Meditation has been demonstrated to positively impact the left brain and, gradually, over time, it can move your set point in a positive direction. That is significant payoff. Haidt also quips that the set point can be altered with the medication Prozac … and I imagine that would, indeed, work, short term, for some – though not at all reliable or recommended here. The long-term and safe benefits are derived from meditation, minus negative side effects.

“Life circumstances” include things that are less likely, or harder, for most to change: gender, IQ, history and background, education level, career/employment, and, for some, even where you live. This, then, is the least likely part of the formula to change … tweaking, perhaps possible.

In contrast, “Voluntary activities” … how and where you choose to spend your time … have an enormous impact on your happiness level. This part of the formula includes family, friends, volunteer work, hobbies, and any activities that have connection and meaning. The more you do the things that bring you pleasure and personal satisfaction, the happier you are likely to be. If that seems ridiculously obvious, just take a minute and check what percentage of your time is spent actually doing the voluntary things that make you happy rather than a “quest” for what you believe (or are being told) brings happiness.

Since the voluntary activities make the most impact on happiness levels, detailed exploration of what and how are examined in another formula. Consider the acronym PERMA, from the research of Dr. Martin Seligman in Flourish.

You can use these five areas of “living life” as a checklist for what you’ve incorporated successfully in your life. Examine the areas you know you need to work on; perhaps push to a higher level or acknowledge those that are important to you. The goal is to assess for a bit of balance. Or, sometimes more achievable in our busy lives, “integration.” Ask yourself what you need to include that is missing? At least a little more often. What needs more emphasis or attention? What do you need to embrace as truly important, not to be taken for granted?

I’m a huge advocate of checklists and inventories, because visuals do help. Consequently, I suggest identifying a page for each item in PERMA. Then list what you currently do that falls into each category. Then list what you have historically done but perhaps stopped for some reason.

Next, what do you aspire to do that you’ve not yet done? And, finally, what do you believe you could put into practice within the next 30 days? After making the lists, sit back, take a deep breath (maybe even meditate, since research says it helps), and just see how you feel. Check yourself to imagine what needs to change to increase your happiness level. And when that is possible.

One more basic piece of research: People earning under $50,000 to $75,000 yearly are typically unhappier than others. If obvious, perhaps more surprising, people who make more are typically not happier than others. Hmm! If the financial payoff isn’t a happiness guarantee, the information might make all the difference in where to put your energy. If not that convincing, perhaps it’s useful in at least contemplating and evaluating what you do that you might consider letting go of … as well as more frequently embracing what you know you do that works. Regardless, do what makes you happier!

The Stadium Factor: How Architects Can Help Propel Soccer’s Rising Popularity in the U.S.

by RYAN GEDNEY |  photos courtesy of HOK

As excitement around the World Cup lingers, designers of soccer stadiums are exploring how these venues can keep up with and even contribute to the sport’s rapid growth in the U.S.

A recent Gallup poll showed that soccer’s popularity has tripled over the last decade. Founded 25 years ago, Major League Soccer now is the country’s fastest-growing professional sports league, ranking above the NBA and NHL in average per-game attendance. And the typical MLS fan is part of a demographic that is highly sought after by marketers and pro sports leagues. For adults ages 18 to 34, soccer was the favorite sport for 11 percent of those polled – tied with basketball and second only to football. The fan base is young, diverse, highly educated, and passionate about the sport.

At the recently opened Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta United FC has shattered MLS attendance records. This year, in just its second season, Atlanta United boasts nearly 39,000 season-ticket holders, is averaging more than 50,000 per game, and for its 2018 home opener, reported a crowd of 72,035 – a single-game high for the league.

MLS is making progress in signing more top players from around the world and increasing its TV ratings. For now, though, much of the league’s growth is being driven by providing dynamic game-day experiences in its stadiums. The fan experience also is key for the Division II United Soccer League (USL).

As architects, we’re exploring new ideas for creating soccer-only stadiums that will provide memorable fan experiences that augment the action on the pitch while contributing to the business success of these franchises and leagues.


Scalability: Many MLS and USL teams have outgrown stadiums originally designed for another sport or small, community facilities shared with other users. We can future-proof the next generation of soccer-only stadiums by integrating scalability and flexibility that will enable them to change and grow along with the sport. This embedded flexibility allows for easy adaptation for high-profile games and events while extending the life of a venue. At Mercedes-Benz Stadium, where Atlanta United has frequently exceeded initial anticipated capacities, this scalability to easily toggle between soccer, football, and other events has been vital.

Sophisticated fan base: Soccer boasts a unique fan base, capturing a high proportion of the country’s millennials and women and children who follow sports. Though the MLS and USL are relatively young, their fans already have high expectations for a hospitality-driven game-day experience – and will pay for this.

Today’s soccer stadiums can appeal to these fans by offering a wide variety of premium seat offerings; experiences that engage fans with the action and athletes; interesting vantage points and social gathering spaces; a technology infrastructure that enables fans to stay connected to their networks while immersing themselves in the game experience; and localized, high-quality food and beverage options.

Building tradition: Soccer fans take the sport seriously and are eager to participate in game-day traditions. The stadium, itself, can enhance these experiences, which could range from setting aside areas for tailgating to providing a special section for the most avid supporters. Our design teams collaborate with team owners and their fans to understand their routines before, during, and after games.

District development: As America’s growth-sport evolves, so, too, is the approach owners are taking to the neighborhoods and real estate surrounding a stadium. On game days, stadiums can be the most electric spaces in a city. Yet many will lie dormant for days at a time between events. Opportunities to build new soccer-specific stadiums on urban sites are enabling architects to look holistically at the broader district experience and attempt to use the venue to engage and serve the community 365 days a year.

We’re working with the USL’s Louisville City FC to design an easily expandable soccer stadium that will anchor a 40-acre, mixed-use development adjacent to Louisville’s Waterfront Park. Here, in addition to a world-class stadium where fans can build a robust soccer culture and celebrate the sport, the goal is to create a shared living room for downtown – a public gathering space that contributes to the urban fabric.

Golden Ox: Everything Old is New Again.

Stewart Lane: Nostalgia often comes with a price. The temples of old where memories were made and personal history created tend to fall short of our expectations. Fortunately for us, the Golden Ox is a rare exception. A revitalization of a bygone time where the best cuts of lamb, beef, chicken, and pork were the stars of the show and served with the respect they deserve.

Emily Lane: After closing its doors in 2014, the team of chef Wes Gartner and Jill Myers (Voltaire and Moxie Catering) decided that they were willing to take on the challenge of bringing back this Kansas City icon under their management. Upon our visit, we were pleased to experience not only an excellently prepared meal but also the ambiance one would expect at the original restaurant. Almost a 1960s “Mad Men”-esque feel, with dark wood, punched-tin lighting, and rich, warm colors in the linens and fabrics, you instantly feel transported to another time. It seemed almost too perfect; there was a man sitting at the table next to us in a large white Stetson. With a glass of dangerously potent cowboy punch in hand, the scene was set for our meal.

SL: The Golden Ox pays homage to its roots without being stuck in the past. Classic starters are elevated to the modern table. The rumaki, a dish with Tiki origins, is built with bacon-wrapped water chestnuts dusted with brown sugar and chicken livers grilled perfectly, placed on a bed of warm, sautéed pineapple. The textures of crisp, smoky bacon, moist and tender livers, the snap of water chestnuts, and the warm pineapple come together in each bite. The steakhouse classic Oysters Rockefeller pairs the house-smoked bacon with plump, juicy oysters, spinach, onions with a touch of Pernod, and toasted breadcrumbs. The oysters arrive straight from the broiler, bubbling around the edges, on a bed of rock salt.

EL: Our meal was coursed out in a timely fashion, and whenever we looked up, pausing for what might be next, an enticing dish would appear. The staff was attentive and thorough in the descriptions of the menu and bar items and ready and willing to share recommendations. There’s something so steakhouse about Caesar salad and shrimp cocktail preceding the main course; so naturally we had to sample those dishes.

SL: The Caesar salad gets an upgrade befitting of the environment, featuring crisp romaine leaves tossed with a light and creamy dressing, thinly shaved shallots, sundried tomatoes, shaved parmesan, and house-made croutons. The salad is finished with a few delicate white anchovy filets draped over the greens. The chef even put his own twist on shrimp cocktail in the homemade cocktail sauce with shredded horseradish and diced green olives.

EL: I couldn’t help but think how much my “meat and potatoes” father who hails from Pennsylvania would have loved every aspect of this traditional menu, but at the same time, it’s been elevated so even the finest foodie would find it engaging and satisfying. I think that’s a good way to assess the client base we observed – you had tables of businessmen, couples of all generations, and families sharing stories (and bites of food) across the table. It seemed everyone felt at ease in this warm habitat.

SL: Steak is, of course, the focal point on the menu, which features flat iron, skirt, filet, dry-aged bone-in ribeye, porterhouse, and, of course, the KC strip to name a few. Chef Gartner proudly touts the local cattle farmers who supply the steaks. We opted for the namesake KC strip, and it was perfection. Textbook medium-rare inside with a crackling crust and a crispy fat cap on the edge, finished with a delicate béarnaise sauce. Handbattered onion rings and a loaded baked potato with house-smoked bacon completed our steak experience. But there are more than steaks meeting the flame here. Emily couldn’t resist the Scottish salmon with a citrus beurre blanc sauce and fennel caper slaw, which was executed with the same finesse and care as any steak.

EL: And what’s a meal without dessert? I loved how they took a nod from the original Golden Ox menu of the ’60s and featured a classic banana split as one of the dessert options. We opted for another classic – the strawberry shortcake – and it was every bit as nostalgic and indulgent as I could have wanted. On our way out the door, I asked Stewart, “When do we get to come back?” We hope the Ox keeps its doors open for years to come.