Merit Award Winner

Project Name:  US Bank Rooftop Renovation  
Location:  Madison, Wisconsin
Design Team:  SmithGroup

The U.S. Bank roof terrace breathes new life into the workplace. The project reimagines 20,000 square feet atop the multi-tenant U.S. Bank building in Madison, Wisconsin. Initiated pre-pandemic, the project foresaw an evolution of the workplace - purposeful spaces for flexible work, gathering, and respite embedded in nature and folded into the heart of the city. 

The previous rooftop consisted of three main zones—an underutilized and highly exposed hardscape, an inaccessible exposed membrane, and an isolated island of plantings. A primary design driver for the project was to introduce amenities that were not previously present. Such amenities include shade and refuge, moveable furniture, power and lighting, Wi-Fi access, privacy screenings, color, and tactile interest. The outdoor shade structure can accommodate screens and flex to make the space an “outdoor conference room.” 

The landscape architect’s concept invites people outside, literally drawing lines from indoors out, as seen in the new entry lobby. Rhythmic planters weave and stagger into pockets of gathering space, flexible for both intimate garden rooms and large community events. The landscape architect also influenced the simultaneous redesign of the interior lobby for a connected experience. Beginning at the entry and flowing outward, the design celebrates the grandeur of the setting, embracing its borrowed scenery of the capital building. 

Importance of Functional Outdoor Space: Extending the workspace outdoors was a primary design driver, and this need was only heightened during the pandemic. The Wi-Fi-enabled roof with customized lighting and power receptacles offers protection from rain and harsh sunlight, and it allows users to customize their microclimate according to Wisconsin’s highly variable weather conditions. This flexible system adapts the outside to become future-proofed for the workplace. 

Sustainability: The project site is situated on an urban isthmus between two lakes. Because rain runoff from the isthmus funnels directly to the lakes, the project performs a critical function of delaying the release of stormwater through the roof’s intensive and semi-intensive vegetated systems. The landscape architect petitioned for the salvage and reuse of existing molded-plastic planter trays. With creativity and vision, the new trays were replanted and repositioned in the new design, significantly reducing landfilled waste. The vegetated roof and light-colored pavers combat the city’s urban heat island effect, minimize the building’s solar heat gain, and decrease cooling energy use. While it was no small undertaking, adding ornamental trees and deep soil profiles was an important investment in insulating the retrofitted roof. In a city characterized by innovation, the U.S. Bank roof terrace sets a new standard.