Open Plan. Less Storage. User Choice.


What do these phrases have in common? They’re not characteristics you find in the design aspects of typical higher education environments across the country. When tasked with the challenge of selecting furniture for academic spaces, some clients may be alarmed when these terms are thrown their direction, particularly when describing their new offices. “Sure, collaboration is a brilliant thing when it comes to classrooms, libraries and beyond, but not for my desk,” they think.

In reality, these themes can be scary at first, but when researched, planned and executed properly, users are able to utilize these concepts to foster collaboration, maximize their real estate, as well as provide flexibility, happiness and overall well-being.

When PDR initially approached Knoll to respond to the RFP for the new Rice Office Building, whose exterior was designed by KieranTimberlake, we knew that the ultimate goal Rice University wanted to achieve was similar to many of our customers; however, what really made this project special, particularly from a planning and facilities standpoint, is the kit-of-parts approach. What does that mean in layman’s terms? A kit-of-parts is a collection of pieces that can be fit together for a variety of configurations. These configurations are used to create a family of objects that all work with each other to establish continuity in design.

The expanse of the Knoll catalog, which includes Knoll Office, KnollStudio and KnollTextiles, allowed for the creation of workstations and private office spaces that shared the underlying ethos of good design.  An assortment of Knoll furniture and materials drawn from our constellation of brands resulted in a layered office space that maintained a sense of aesthetic unity across the various types of workplaces.

Knoll’s breadth and depth of product line, along with the versatility and adjustability of its products proved useful in achieving this concept. Working closely with PDR and our dealer, Debner+Company, we developed a typical using the Fence Spine Wall and Anchor Storage that would be functional and highly efficient. The Fence Spine Wall would act as a slinky of sorts, allowing stations to grow and shrink as Rice University’s needs change. The freestanding Fence Spine also provides technology support for workstations, while seamlessly blending a diverse array of Knoll products. Overall, the Knoll kit-of-parts and Knoll’s non-obsolescence policy allows for the possibility of future reconfiguration, while safe guarding Rice University’s furniture investment.

Another key ingredient in the success of this project was the ability to work with PDR to clearly understand initial project expectations. How will the staff actually work while they occupy their desks? What will this space really look like? How can the team effectively handle change management within the space? All of these items were carefully considered and planned to ensure this project has long-term success. Once the desired typical was achieved, Knoll and Debner+Company went to work creating 3D renderings and a fly-through for the space. This strategy played an integral part in understanding and defining our mutual course of action and desired outcomes.

Our teams are thrilled with our partnership and are looking forward to the building occupancy coming this fall.

For more information on Knoll, Inc. or the products used please visit

Jaime Brochu


Jaime Brochu is a Sales Representative for Knoll, and focuses on Higher Education and Healthcare Environments. With over nine years of industry experience, Jaime has worked with systems all over the state of Texas to create spaces where people aspire to be. She is a native Houstonian, and holds a Bachelor of Science from Texas A&M University.