Creating a Legacy Space

By: Generator Studio

Dickinson Financial Corporation (DFC) welcomed the workforce from its two brands, Academy Bank and Armed Forces Bank, to their new downtown Kansas City office space in November 2023. Generator Studio took a proactive approach in creating DFC’s legacy space that compliments the organization’s work model with a forward-thinking office. For this project, Generator was able to strike a balance between important traditional elements from the bank’s history and progressive office technology and layouts that would invigorate the financial institution’s workspace and culture.

The headquarters represents the next step in the evolution of the brand; over the last ten years, the designers of Generator Studio have worked in partnership with bank leadership to have their retail locations embody their desire to be simultaneously high-tech and high-touch. Generator designed Academy Bank’s new, modern branch prototype and assisted with architectural needs throughout the company’s retail footprint. As part of the revitalized concept, Generator worked with Academy to integrate new banking technology that embraces the use of virtual tellers and cash recyclers while maintaining a personal, human element to banking, in addition to creating community spaces and lounge areas that could be used by customers and the surrounding neighborhood.

The project first began by finding the right location for its space. Test fits on multiple sites were explored to allow the organization to see how their current associates would fit into the spaces. These test fits also helped DFC envision how much space they would need to accommodate their workforce for the foreseeable future and cultivate more collaborative behaviors between associates. 

Outside of the immediate needs of DFC’s workforce, it was imperative that the building selected for the headquarters meet two important criteria. To best serve their clients, DFC required the ability to operate a bank branch on the first floor of the location selected. Second, to grow overall awareness, the organization sought a location that allowed rooftop signage for brand visibility. A sign adorning the very top of the building in downtown Kansas City was attached by helicopter in January 2024, making Academy Bank a permanent fixture in the city skyline. To further meet DFC’s needs, exterior signage on the street level of the building was coordinated with the owner of the building.

“Generator guided us through this entire process from selecting our location to unloading artwork off delivery trucks when additional hands were needed. Their level of care is unparalleled, both in working with us as a client and in the excellence of their design,” said Paul Holewinski, CEO of Dickinson Financial Corporation. “We are thrilled with our new office space and there’s a new level of energy among our associates.”

The new space, occupying three interconnected floors and roughly 59,000 SF, allows the banks’ disciplines to work in a common space for the first time. The staircase that connects the 11th and 12th floors serves not only as a utility but also as a visual representation of the connected nature that the organization actively strives for in its workplace. Unlike the previous office, communal working space plays a large role in the new design. 

Areas known as “huddle spaces’ were designed to encourage collaboration outside of private offices. To accommodate these spaces in an office almost 25% smaller than the previous headquarters, footprints for all private offices and cubicles were reduced in favor of more spacious huddle zones open to all. In response to the growing importance of employee wellness in the workplace, adjustable-height desks were implemented for the entire workforce. 

To further connectedness among associates, oversized monitors were positioned to be visible from huddle spaces and private offices. Key performance metrics are displayed for all to see in real-time along with cultural content and important information. These monitors were used during office move-in to guide associates to their new locations and offer major updates throughout the move. 

One particular challenge for the design team was incorporating the company’s vast collection of oil paintings in ornate frames while designing for the company’s modern “high touch + high tech” brand values. The historic art collection was built by Gary and Ann Dickinson who established the family business in 1971. Now owned by their children, honoring Gary and Ann’s legacy and great love for art had to be a core element of the new headquarters’ design narrative.  

The interior design team accomplished this by choosing walnut as the primary wood and beautifully crafted, traditional millwork used throughout the office. Walnut is particularly effective in marrying design styles from traditional to classic to modern. At DFC, old-world paintings hang gracefully in each office on clutter-free walls among clean-lined furniture and finishings that blend effortlessly in a space that feels richly modern. The millwork also assists in bridging the gap between open spaces for collaboration by creating a cohesive line of sight throughout. The quality and thoughtfulness of the interior design are both seen and felt – paying homage to DFC’s ‘high touch’ credo not only for customers but first and foremost, for its associates.

Named by Fortune Magazine as one of America’s Most Innovative Companies in 2023, Academy Bank now resides alongside its sister brand, Armed Forces Bank, in its downtown Kansas City office which reflects its collaborative work model and seamlessly blends DFC’s rich history with office technology and future-looking workplace trends. And to that, we say In Academy’s words, “done deal.”

See full article with images here: Generator Studio