Basement spaces typically have a lower leasing cost and can get you a great address for a discounted price albeit below grade. Some buildings on a sloped site can have a lower floor with windows on only one side of the floor plate, but in either situation, it is a challenge to create a pleasing environment without views or daylight. We’ve got the basements!
In the last two years we have had the opportunity to design three spaces that have no windows and arrived at several concepts to make them a great destination for its users. These projects are UMUC, Goodwill Excel Center, and Government CIO. For UMUC, the building is on sloped terrain and the ground floor which houses their IT group has few windows and on one end of the floor. Goodwill was able to lease downtown DC space for their school making them accessible by the community and Government CIO located themselves steps from the US Capitol, both by going underground.
Here are some ideas for creating a window of opportunity for subterranean environments.
1- Don’t fight the feeling. The space is dark, but this gives you the opportunity to control and create special lighting effects that make the space very cool to be in.
2- Join any part of the program to the circulation space by challenging which spaces need to be enclosed. This will allow you to avoid rabbit warren like corridors which are unpleasant even in spaces with windows. Make circulation easy to understand and navigate.
3- Create mystery by providing vistas to adjoining spaces while maintaining privacy, view portals to adjacent spaces and glass fronts reduce the feeling of enclosure.
4- Seek opportunities to recall nature, whether with actual plants, graphics or patterns or by stage setting outdoor spaces.
5-Provide lighting solutions that mimic the variation in light intensity and spectrum which affect circadian rhythms. New LED lamps are able to accomplish this.