The walk up the smooth, green slope from the parking lot to the new Timex headquarters in Middlebury, Connecticut is meant to be a transformative journey. Cars are hidden behind a bank of trees, for example. A large wooden sculpture — modeled after a Native American sundial — sits along the pebbled path. And the curved glass building, set atop a hill, literally and structurally reflects the contours of the rolling landscape around it.
But the biggest transformation is going on inside the $23 million building, which opened in July. All of the 275 employees — including the CEO — work in a single, open room roughly the size of a football field: No walls, no partitions, no cubes divide them. "There's a direct link between physical boundaries and the perception of intellectual ones," says Douglas Disbrow, an architect at Fletcher Thompson, the Bridgeport, Connecticut firm that designed the building. "Certain knowledge gets contained if space is defined in a certain way."
By opening up space, Timex hopes to promote all of the usual behavior expected from workspace design these days: collaboration, interaction, spontaneous meetings. But the biggest challenge for Timex going forward may be in branding the space. Because exterior walls are made entirely of glass and interior walls don't exist, there are few places to display product prototypes, for example, or to tack up layouts for new ad campaigns — things that announce that this is Timex country.
One design feature may help: an oculus — a round "eye" punched into the building's domed roof — that directs a band of sunlight onto a solar calendar laid out on the floor. The building itself is a watch.
Visit Timex on the Web (http://www.timex.com).
A version of this article appeared in the November 2001 issue of Fast Company magazine.