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High-Tech and High Light: Medtronic World Headquarters and Research and Education Facility by HGA

Fridley, Minnesota: A high-tech corporate campus demonstrates the power of design to turn corporate culture into a tangible asset.

by ArchNewsNow
March 18, 2002

Medtronic, a leading international medical technology company, needed a new worldwide headquarters that would reflect its patient-focused mission. Minneapolis-based architects HGA and landscape architects Oslund & Associates were called upon to design a corporate campus that would facilitate the interaction of doctors and research scientists collaborating on important new work. The design team also sought to create an inspiring, light-filled environment. Set on 42 acres of rolling prairie not far from downtown Minneapolis, Medtronic’s headquarters demonstrates the power of design to turn corporate culture into a tangible corporate asset.


A destination each year for more than 5,000 physicians and scientists who travel from all parts of the globe to study Medtronic’s innovative therapies, the seven-building, 500,000-square-foot village-like campus is comprised of high-tech labs, research and development facilities, corporate offices, and a training and education center. All the buildings are tied together by glass-enclosed walkways offering views of gardens and green space. Amenities for the company’s 1,100 employees include a cafeteria, auditorium, fitness center, and even a freestanding, 11,200-square-foot childcare center accommodating some 120 children of employees.


The Design


The Medtronic campus suggests a collegiate environment. Blending traditional and modern architecture, the design unites several low-rise buildings that fit comfortably within a garden-like setting. Numerous courtyards, loggia, and walkways connect interior spaces with the out-of-doors, and native grasses and trees reinforce the prairie setting.


Constructed primarily of limestone from the region and sand-molded brick, the exterior materials were chosen for their natural, earth-hewn qualities and connection to Minnesota. It is a very pedestrian-friendly environment; most vehicular activity and parking is confined to the north edge of the campus.


A sweeping drive past wetland ponds and gardens brings the visitor to the front courtyard and formal main entry. Flanked on either side by the gabled facades of the company’s two cornerstones, Research and Education Centers, a soaring four-story atrium signals the site of the Conservatory. This dramatic, light-filled 8,100-square-foot space is the centerpiece of the Corporate Center, as well as the front door of the World Headquarters. Designed to accommodate high-tech audio, video, and lighting systems, the 90-by-90-foot “great room” with nine 30-by-30-foot skylight monitors is the campus crossroads, as well as corporate stage, and can seat up to 1,200 for gatherings and presentations of all kinds.


Because so many physicians visit Medtronic each year to learn how best to use its technology, hospitality and tours play key roles. Interactive displays encourage visitors to learn more about Medtronic products, and electronic kiosks convey the company’s vision. Prominently displayed etched glass—in 10 languages—presents the Medtronic mission statement, and a lighted map shows the more than 260 Medtronic locations worldwide.


Just off the Conservatory is the Technology Center, a three-story, glass-walled atrium that showcases the research laboratories of the Materials and BioSciences Center. Accommodating 70 scientists and researchers in 35,000 square feet of light-filled space, this facility allows the visitor visual access to the company’s heart and soul, while encouraging scientific collaboration and interaction. The Education Center, also just a short indoor walk from the Conservatory, features an open, four-story atrium and 24 classrooms for employee and customer education.


The 80,000-square-foot Research Center is a showcase for all of Medtronic’s capabilities and was designed to be highly flexible to change as research needs change. It accommodates 120 researchers and scientists and features a three-story, glass-walled atrium that showcases their research capabilities. (The microscopy suites are located on the ground floor to minimize vibrations.)


“Encouraging and supporting scientific interaction are the hallmarks of the design, and the open lab plan allows for that,” says HGA project designer Bill Blanski. “Medtronic is a company focused on education, and the facility is also designed to accommodate educational tours. For the visitor, it’s exciting to see the operation in an up-close and personal way.”


Interiors throughout the campus evoke a healing environment that is vibrant yet soothing, matching the quality and precision of the devices that Medtronic manufactures. Choosing materials for their warmth and rich textures, the designers used cherry and maple throughout, with satin-finished stainless steel and accents of amber slate.


Abundant natural light also plays an important part in the design. Glass curtain walls and large skylights are featured prominently, supporting the idea that daylight is crucial for a happy, healthy, and productive workforce. Most offices are located along interior walls, maximizing the number of employees who can enjoy natural lighting. Common areas reinforce the collaborative nature of Medtronic’s commitment to research and development.


Just off the glass-enclosed walkway that leads to the Technology Center, the Inventor’s Patent Garden displays more than 3,000 stainless steel pins, each numbered for a specific Medtronic patent. And adjacent to the Patent Garden, the Medtronic e-library provides medical, technical, and scientific research services and electronic dissemination of information. “This campus is really about functional expression,” says HGA principal-in-change, Rebecca Greco. “The work environments needed to match Medtronic’s patient-focused approach. Our goal was to create the infrastructure and flexibility to support that.”


Flash Track Design/Build


Designed, constructed, and first occupied in a 17-month time frame, the project is an exceptional example of a “flash track” design/build process. With an official groundbreaking on June 24, 1999, the facility fully opened for business on April 30, 2001—an incredible pace for a project of this size and scope. 


Making design decisions in a sequential order, and releasing that information to McGough Construction in “construction packages” as they were developed, a team of 24 HGA architects and engineers created seven such packages from May of 1999 through March of 2000. This highly structured method of design and construction accelerates the decision-making process.


HGA Team: Rebecca Greco (Principal-in-Charge), Loren Ahles (Design Principal), Bill Blanski (Senior Project Designer), Linda Morrissey (Project Architect), Mike O’Malley (Project Manager), Mary Shaffer, Rhonda Miles (Interior Design), Kenny Horns (Civil Engineer)

Landscape Architect: Oslund & Associates, Tom Oslund and Tadd Kreun

General Contractor: McGough Construction

Structural Engineer: Paul Asp

Mechanical Engineers: Dan Dahlman and Chuck Cappellin

Electrical: Dan Biggar


Founded in 1953, HGA (Hammel, Green & Abrahamson) is a full-service architecture, engineering and planning firm with offices in Minneapolis and Rochester, Minnesota; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and San Francisco and Sacramento, California. Organized into inter-disciplinary practice groups, HGA offers a balanced portfolio of planning and design expertise that focuses on work for healthcare, corporate, the arts, community, and education clients.

(Photo: Assassi Productions)
The Medtronic World Headquarters is a blend of traditional and modern architecture; local limestone and sand-molded brick were chosen for their natural, earth-hewn qualities and connection to Minnesota.

Site plan

(Photo: Assassi Productions)
The main driveway passes a 6-acre pond in front of the Biomaterials and Life Sciences Research Building (right) and the Education Center (left).

(Photo: Assassi Productions)
The entry courtyard establishes a collegiate environment for the campus.

(Photo: Assassi Productions)
The main entry court; the soaring atrium is topped by skylight monitors.

(Photo: Assassi Productions)
The outdoor dining terrace faces south and opens up to the main courtyard.

(Photo: Assassi Productions)
Courtyards include trees, paths and stone benches, and are surrounded by covered walkways.

(Photo: Assassi Productions)
The exterior is detailed in limestone, sand molded brick, and warm-toned metals.

(Photo: Assassi Productions)
The 90-foot-square central atrium serves as an indoor commons for the entire campus.

(Photo: Assassi Productions)
The open stair links all four levels of the facility.

(Photo: Assassi Productions)
The laboratories on all three levels of the BioMedical Laboratory building on the left are viewed and served from the office space located on the right.

(Photo: Assassi Productions)
The double helix stair in the BioMedical Laboratory links the office and lab areas.

(Photo: Assassi Productions)
The main auditorium seats 250 and is used for both educational and dining events.

(Photo: Assassi Productions)
The employee dining room connects to the outdoor dining terrace.

Plan 1


© 2002