When Boeing, the world’s largest plane manufacturer, started designing a new version of its top-selling aircraft, the company wanted to put the plane’s designers as close as possible to the manufacturing process. At the airplane maker’s sprawling Renton, Washington, campus, office workers often face as much as a 20-minute walk from their desk to the factory floor, making meetings between the people designing the aircraft and those building the aircraft dreadfully inefficient and time-consuming. Facing pressure to churn out more planes to meet demand, the company decided to put its design engineers closer to the action—in a new office building built directly inside the factory.
The office building, with 120,000 square feet spread across two stories, puts Boeing designers right on top of their product, in a part of the factory once used for storage. The square two-story office is wedged into a upper-level corner of the 1.4 million-square-foot factory (where Boeing has made airplanes since the start of World War II) and is bordered by per-existing offices on the exterior walls. The new work space is arranged in a doughnut around a central interior courtyard, and buffered from the corner of the building by an L-shaped atrium space. The black building’s windows into the factory vary in size, moving from long, narrow slits next to the center of the manufacturing action to floor-to-ceiling glass closest to the outside wall of the factory building.