May 30, 2014

Tough As Nails: Tough Mudder by M. Moser Associates

How do you take a group of people who claim to create “the toughest event on the planet”—typically a 10-mile military-style obstacle course that can break a mere mortal—and get them to go sit at a desk every day? You do and you don’t.

Tough Mudder, which has produced endurance events around the world for over 1 million people, is “casual-appearing,” M Moser Asso­ciates design director Bill Bouchey says. “But it’s very serious in its intent as a business.” So striking the right note for a 35,000-square-foot office in Brooklyn, New York, presented an obstacle course of its own. The buzzword was authenticity.

Bouchey and project designer Charlton Hutton stripped the aesthetic down to basics. Raw elements remain: exposed ceiling, concrete flooring. Building materials were chosen for their ruggedness. Wall tile, for example, mimics oxidized steel. Doors to a conference room are framed in steel scarred to evoke bruises and bumps, the badges of honor bestowed by a Tough Mudder course. In the boardroom, a long wall is surfaced in black foam tile shaped into sharp fins that control acoustics.

The boardroom is among the freestanding elements that define a jagged figure eight of circulation paths—evoking the maps of Tough Mudder courses. Overall, the open plan facilitates the collaborative encounters necessary for future events to cross the finish line. With a seasonal work calendar that sends half the staff out into the field, Tough Mudder associate project manager Christopher Maltbie explains, “The travelers  have to be quickly assimilated when they return, and casual collisions with colleagues help.”

Company pride comes through loud and clear, thanks to the graphic “fist pumps” of logos, mottos, and memorabilia. “The history was important to convey,” Hutton says. He should know—in order to pitch the job, he ran a course in Florida. On move-in day in Brooklyn, he recalls, Tough Mudder set up a starting gate outside, and staff rushed the building as though the new office would be the latest glory to grab. 

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