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Formwork: Sculpting SRM’s New Corporate Headquarters

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Story by Lee Rennick
Photos provided by Erin Kosko and Cory Gaffer

On a hill overlooking I-840 and West Jefferson Pike sits the new SRM Corporate Headquarters. Made of glass and cement, it grabs attention. Not just because of its location, but because of its architecture. The design is something one would expect in a much larger city.

“We wanted it to be uniquely us,” said Jeff Hollingshead, CEO, SRM, “and we wanted it to represent our business and our people.”

SRM hired Nashville-based EOA Architects to design the space, and the process became a true collaboration. 

Thought Behind the Design

“When we first sat down with EOA to discuss the building,” added Hollingshead, “we wanted something that represented what we do every day. Obviously cement. I love modern design, so that was a big part of it. And my family – my Dad, my brother – we all wanted something that … represented all aspects of the business: the quarry business, the aggregate side of the business and also the ready-mix side. This was a culmination of all those things brought together and they are all represented in the building.

“[A] daycare is a piece of the puzzle,” explained Tracey Ford, Principal, Project Architect, EOA, “as well as a fitness center and a dining component. And, office amenities drawing from Google and Microsoft.”

“The daycare was a piece my Dad was adamant about,” noted Hollingshead. “He really wanted to have that amenity. It has been very successful, as well as the other amenities. The café has also been incredibly well received, and the gym is used every day, throughout the day.”
Being able to house all of their corporate employees in one building was the most important facet of the design, while allowing for their rapid growth.

“The synergies of having all of our businesses under one roof is just enormous,” said Hollingshead. “Before, we were running out of four different offices. We were spread out in Smyrna, Murfreesboro, Mt. Juliet and Nashville. Having everyone under one roof and being able to communicate with our teammates immediately by walking down one floor or the office next door allows us to disseminate information quicker. There is a big difference.”

EOA and Curvilinear Design

The curvilinear design concept makes one think of works by Oscar Niemeyer, Dame Zaha Hadid and Frank Gehry; all architects famous for their preference for organic shapes. 

“I am not attracted to straight angles or to the straight line, hard and inflexible, created by man,” Niemeyer once said. The SRM Headquarters has no right angles in the entire building and was designed to reflect its environment.

EOA’s whole focus is humanizing design. They have used the rounded forms to make what could have been a cold and severe building due to its building materials into something warm, inviting and beautiful. According to a recent article in, “In a 2013 study…participants were most likely to consider a space beautiful if it was curvilinear instead of rectangular. In short, humans love curves.”

The curved walls of the building were designed by EOA to reflect the shape of the rock quarry that sits behind it, from which SRM’s concrete is born. As the quarry reaches deep into mother earth, the building reaches for father sky. While a creation of man, the building is a xenogenesis that merges with the natural environment to birth a light-filled space that is both art and science. Just as the development of different types of cement are a bit of both. 

It feels light, in spite of being made of concrete, because of the 12 different types of concrete used in its structure. The varying elements of the different types of concrete allowed the architects to let the building flow like limestone - from which concrete is made - as it is worn over time by water and wind. Also, thanks to high strength cement, the exterior columns are half the size of regular columns and stand on a smaller base, making the columns look like they are floating. 

Every element, down to the last plate sitting on open-shelves in one of the many open-concept employee break-room spaces, has been curated to give the feeling of walking into a contemporary home. 

Although the front lobby is massive, this is where the essence of home and hearth begins. The decorative sheer wall and massive double-cantilever staircase located in the center of the space, are pieces of art. The wall of wood behind the reception desk, created by Cumberland Architectural Millwork, Inc. located in Nashville, adds warmth. The addition of bright, modern rounded furnishings and lighting gives the feel of stepping into a house of the latest design.
Broken down to its individual elements, the lobby tells the story of SRM visually. The massive sheer wall which supports the entire building has been left raw to show the imprint of the wood forms in which the concrete was set, instead of being plastered over as it would be in other office buildings. 

“We wanted to show the stages that cement goes through making a structure,” said Michael Wasyliw, Associate, Project Architect, EOA, who served as the lead on this project. 

On the sheer wall hang massive black and white photographs of the process of making cement. The photos are encased in custom frames that were made by Holler Designs located in Lascassas, Tennessee. Additional black and white photography hang throughout the building highlighting their employees as they create their product.

The wall and photographs draw you into the building, but it is the massive staircase with its custom metal railing that is the focal point of the room. It was designed to look like the chute on a concrete truck and draw those coming into work up to the second floor.

“It was a challenge to model and in structural engineering,” explained Wasyliw. “We stressed out our structural engineer.”

Because the staircase was such a design and engineering feat, EOA used virtual reality to help work through the engineering and design concept. They were also able to use VR as a way to show Hollingshead, his father Mike and mother Melissa who founded the company and his brother, Ryan, who is President of SRM Aggregates, what the staircase would look like when completed in the lobby. It was a much more effective way to get the design element across visually through VR than by using architectural drawings or even a model. 

“They were able to put on the VR glasses and experience not only the building process, but also the final look of the staircase in the completed lobby,” noted Wasyliw.

Custom concrete was created for the stairs and the floor in the lobby. EOA worked with SRM designers to develop an aggregate that mimics terrazzo. It has been dubbed SRM Blend and EOA has since used it for one other client due to its capabilities and high design concept. 
“Although [the lobby] is a massive space,” explained Ford, “we wanted it to feel like you were walking into a living room.” 

A Perfect Design Client

Ford went on to say that SRM was a “perfect client.” They had a vision, but they were also open to forward thinking ideas to express that vision when they were presented by the EOA team.
“We would present them with several ideas,” explained Ford, “and we would think they would choose one option, but they always chose the one that pushed us.”

While touring and learning about the business, Ford and Wasyliw noticed a pile of concrete strength testing cylinders, and one of the things they suggested was to use them as tiles to create a one-of a kind wall outside the training facility on the second floor. 

EOA also suggested using many local crafts people as suppliers, including Red Rock Tile. Like EOA, Red Rock Tile is female owned. Every tile is hand made by fine craft artisans making each piece unique and one of a kind. Their work can be seen in the blue tiles in the lobby.

Because the main medium was cement, every door and light fixture had to be planned to perfection because once the concrete was poured and cured, it could not be undone. All of the wiring runs through the concrete walls.

Wasylik also worked with SRM on putting in a geothermal heating system that runs underground. At first, they were unsure, but after EOA ran energy modeling, it was a no brainer as both companies were determined to integrate as much sustainability into the building as possible. It is also not visible on the exterior of the building.

“SRM is very conscious of esthetics,” said Wasyliw, “and this system allowed us to make it virtually invisible, while being extremely efficient.” 

Choosing where the building would sit on the land was another place where SRM was very hands-on. Mike Hollingshead wanted to preserve a particular tree on the site and he wanted to be able to see the quarry from the building. Both companies flew over the site together and discussed the location. It was important for the building to be a gateway to Smyrna. 

“It was custom all the way,” explained Ford. “We not only designed the architecture, but also the interiors, the furniture and the accessories. We helped them with sourcing for a lot of the furniture and accessory purchases.”

SRM and the Story of Cement

A fast-growing company, SRM was begun in 1999 by Mike Hollingshead and his wife in their backyard when he was unable to get the concrete he needed to be successful in his concrete finishing business. It was just six months later when other cement finishers in the area began looking to Mike to buy ready mix concrete. 

Initially, they had little cash flow and three trucks to make deliveries. By 2005, however, they started to acquire small local competitors, beginning with Eagleville Ready Mix. They began making acquisitions out of state in 2016 and are currently located in 19 states with more the 6,500 employees. 

Concrete is the most basic and widely used building material in modern society. Invented in the 19th century by Joseph Aspdin, it is now a staple in the building industry. 

Ryan Hollingshead recently told Rutherford County’s Livability Magazine that they could not have done what they have done without every employee on their team contributing to the business’ success. “We are,” he added, “proud of our past, but we are focused on our future.”

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