Upward, Not Outward

Image Courtesy of Pickard Chilton

Image Courtesy of Pickard Chilton

Universities and companies alike are increasingly asking themselves how to effectively build upward, not outward. A new typology called the Vertical Campus has evolved to respond to this trend.

Among other business challenges, the mounting pressure to compete for talent and productivity in an increasingly global, mobile, and diverse workforce is turning companies on to a new model of architectural design for the workplace of the future. This new building type, commonly referred to as a “vertical campus”, can simultaneously be a powerful symbol of the company’s identity and an efficient functional tool for new ways of working.

The vertical campus is an evolution of the prototypical, office high-rise tower married with the comradery and identity-infused higher education campus. The idea is to essentially replicate and consolidate the aspects of a sprawling, incubating, higher-education campus into an office tower footprint in a dense urban setting. The driver for the location, despite its challenges, is connectivity to other businesses and institutions often located in a central business district and proximity to a multitude of amenities like street-level retail, restaurants, gyms, daycare, and daily conveniences. 

I have had the opportunity to work on a project of this type over the last two years for a Fortune 200 energy company. In their new vertical campus employees’ daily routines will benefit by having many aspects of their work and personal lives close at hand. I can arrive by transit, stash my bicycle, or park my vehicle safely in the garage. I can get my morning workout at the provided wellness center. I can have informal or formal team meetings in one of the myriad collaborative spaces. Impromptu, creative collisions with coworkers at shared coffee bars will spur innovation and comradery. Energizing spaces like dining halls and atriums span several floors and break down the vertical monotony of a typical office high-rise allowing views and light to permeate the workplace. Carefully planned circulation paths and bridges promote cross-pollination and easy movement throughout the campus. This stacked model ultimately yields a spectacular workplace for the individual which then translates benefits to their teams and ultimately the organization as a whole.

If community is the target here, people are at its center. Organizations are realizing now more than ever that their people are their greatest asset. Finding ways to improve workplace conditions for their people translates into company-wide progress and gains. This axiom is only amplified by the virtual workplace revolution that is still rippling its way through the market.

So will we see more high-rise office buildings with large portions carved out of them to create communal spaces? Will buildings become more connected by bridges and tunnels to promote connectivity and walkability? Despite the constraints of urban development, will large plazas continue to give the outdoors back to employees? You can bet on it.


Nick Jackson, RA



.Nick is a Registered Architect who believes strongly in the potential for design to improve everyday life. His ability to nimbly design at both macro and micro scales enables him to create holistic solutions that solve the many demands of an architectural project. Nick’s versatile architectural background has enabled him to collaborate on a variety of projects including ExxonMobil, TransCanada, Schlumberger, Christian Brothers Automotive, and this Fortune 200 energy company.