As the company grew from three to more than 100 employees, it outgrew its small, casual office space.
Grit by Design
That's when AND 1 contacted Carter, of Hillier Philadelphia. They charged Carter, an admitted basketball fan, with translating the rough environment of the schoolyard into a building that would appeal to young players and would have all the chalk dust and graffiti feeling of a basketball court.
"All we wanted," says Gilbert, one of the three founders, "was a cool place for people who are as excited about basketball as we are."
Carter adds "I wanted to design something for them, with as few desks as possible, that was in the 'trash-talking, in-your-face' mood for which the And 1 partners are known." He found the perfect site for the office building in an unlikely area, the exclusive suburb of Paoli.
After looking at a number of sites, Carter chose a 40,000-square-foot (3700-square meter) former check-printing building in a small industrial park. This would be the raw material for the schoolyard basketball showcase.
In contrast to most of the town's upscale character, the existing zoning in the industrial park was perfect. The group is now using 30,000 square feet (2800-square meters) and leaving the remainder empty for future expansion.
Carter said the AND 1 group prefers adaptive reuse over new construction because "it offers the use of an existing space in a creative way, like an impromptu basketball game in a schoolyard."
Carter's task was to make the basketball world feel it had come home when it entered And 1. He increased the ceiling heights to 15 feet (4.6 meters), moved walls in the rear of the building to make room for a basketball court, and made sure overhead ducts and pipes were exposed and brightly colored.
The headquarters building was completed in the spring of 2000 at a cost of about $1.5 million.
Stroll Down the Center Lane
Carter left no doubt that AND 1 means basketball. At the entrance foyer, black-and-white photographs show basketball playing in all its power. Some of the photos show the And 1-sponsored team that tours the country playing basketball in many cities.
In other photos, professional basketball players Latrell Sprewell or Kevin Garnett, And 1 favorites with "attitude," reach for a ball or make a basket.
On another wall, facing the entry, stretches a huge photo of the company mascot, "The Raceless, Faceless Basketball Player." He looks like a cross between the Academy Award Oscar and an automobile testing robot.
Inside, almost everything is charcoal gray, white, or orange to carry out the basketball theme. In an alcove in a curved wall, the receptionist sits under a large black-and-white photo of Sprewell, who is the spokesperson chosen for his appeal to basketball-playing city kids. He is a far cry from the genteel role models chosen by other companies.
The receptionist's built-in desk begins what Carter calls "the lane," a curved path that travels through the building. It meanders past a large conference room/ showroom, where about 100 basketball shoes in a variety of colors sit on perches. The walls of the lane are covered with photographs on one side and graffiti murals on the other.
All the floors are concrete except in the basketball court. The result is that AND 1 employees can wear any kind of footwear they like. They sometimes even bring their dogs to work.
Every Day in Court
At the end of the lane is an actual basketball court the size of a high school gymnasium. Its shiny wood floors and 15-foot (4.6-meter) ceiling exude a gritty character, from the old wire-protected ceiling lights to the metal, rounded-top trash cans and iron doors that slam noisily.
Most AND 1 job applicants are tested on their ability to play basketball in the court where the staff often tosses around a few balls during their lunch breaks. The court is also used for testing shoes and hosting the AND 1 traveling team.
This summer, the company will host a basketball summer camp for teenagers. They have begun sponsoring teams of young players and visiting basketball professionals testing sports equipment.
Near the entrance to the court, a large glass-walled break room includes black shiny refrigerators, stoves, and tables. The room is used for any occasion from afternoon breaks to parties.
Places of Work
Carter's carefully constructed casual atmosphere extends to the office areas for sales, accounting, and marketing. Here, chain-link fencing separates the work cubicles.
Workers can see one another through the dividers unless, as for public relations staffer Kristen Weill, a little privacy is necessary. To achieve this privacy, she and a few others installed plywood on their chain link dividers. The plywood also serves as a bulletin board. To continue the theme, some employees decorate their plywood with graffiti.
The walls of the office area are lined with sliding glass-doored offices for managers who say they need little space for their private meetings.
Carter says the definition of "casual" changed a few times during design but he feels he has created an atmosphere for people who do not want anything resembling yesterday's office space.
Ducks and Sheds
A comparison to NikeTown seems inevitable, yet the two environments are very different. Nike creates slick retail spaces aimed directly at consumers while And 1's headquarters is designed to appeal to retailers.
And, as AND 1's Gilbert says, "What separates us from Nike or any other corporate athletic wear company is that we produce only basketball gear, and basketball gear with an attitude that our customers like."
According to Brittain Brewer, an architect who helped with the original NikeTowns in the 1980s, the differences between the two sportswear companies can be expressed in the tongue-in-cheek vocabulary of Robert Venturi in his book Learning from Las Vegas.
According to this nomenclature, AND 1 is the "decorated shed," enhanced to create the ambience of a sweaty inner city gym. By contrast, a NikeTown is a "duck," meaning it is designed to look like something it is not. For example, the Manhattan NikeTown resembles an abandoned school building.
Another difference between the new AND 1 office building and a NikeTown is that Nike has abandoned its original attempt at a rough basketball image. It now has a multi-sport identity with role models who seem inspiring but safe, like Michael Jordan.
Brewer observes: "There was definitely room for someone to step into the street-smart basketball spot."
Diane M. Fiske is an architecture writer in Philadelphia.
Architect: Hillier Philadelphia
James D. Carter, AIA, Project Principal
Jeffrey Mooney, AIA, Project Architect
Amy George, Project Interior Designer
Caryn Rosencrance, Project Interior Designer
Project Management: Sidney P. Gilbert Associates
Mechanical and Electrical: Bala Consulting Engineers
Structural Engineer: Orndorf, Sochet & Associates
Lighting: Alexander Radunsky Design Inc.