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Tiny Tampa firm Junto lands big Wal-Mart design job

In an unlikely pairing, a tiny Tampa architectural firm has landed big jobs designing headquarters space for Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world's biggest retailer.

An interior decorator may seem a disconnect for a discount giant that has prided itself on the spartan look of its corporate campus in Bentonville, Ark. Office chairs there are often cheapo molded plastic, the primary color is gray and even the chief executive's office is a simple affair befitting the taste of its onetime occupant, founder Sam Walton.

Into this inject Junto Design Studio, a Tampa firm whose principals are architects Bill Rapp and John Mistretta and interior designers Kristina York and Angela Davis. They're better known for work on local branches of American Momentum and Gulfshore banks and the corporate office of Masonite Corp.

Hired to furnish 400,000 square feet at the headquarters of Sam's Club in Bentonville, Junto interviewed 250 Walmart workers before drawing up an industrial chic layout. Carpeted in blue, neon green and gray from the Sam's Club logo, the place looks more like a warehouse club store with industrial lighting, unfinished ceilings and murals of pallets of merchandise.

"We found Walmart people to be very smart, down-to-earth people who really practice what they preach," said Angela Davis, Junto project manager. "They told us to keep it simple and true to their brand."

That evolved to nothing flashier than painted surfaces, laminated desktops, corrugated aluminum and some budget-priced Aeron look-alike chairs from Herman Miller.

Junto caught Wal-Mart's attention from a Tampa job. The firm laid out a colorful sea of cubicles at Cott Corp. near Tampa International Airport. The maker of Walmart store-brand bottled drinks, Cott wanted an open space that fostered collaboration among workers at its U.S. headquarters, rather than a buttoned-down warren of private offices.

Junto removed the walls, grouped workers by function and interaction with other departments, sprinkled in sofa seating with white boards and threw in space for snacking and a pool table. Top managers' desks were circled together with a small stage in the center. A "Let's Get Ready to Rumble" arena microphone pulls down from the ceiling for announcements.

Wal-Mart recently chose Junto to design office space for its information technology center in Bentonville, where 2,500 people work.

Mark Albright can be reached at albright@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8252.

Tiny Tampa firm Junto lands big Wal-Mart design job 03/21/11 [Last modified: Monday, March 21, 2011 8:19pm]
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