A Tech Company Tackles the U.S. Camp Industry: UltraCamp Offices In Niles, Michigan

UltraCamp, a Michigan-based tech company providing camp management software, has been helping camp organizations across the country run better so that their camp staffs can spend more time doing the things they love.

UltraCamp’s origin story begins with its founders fusing their passion for active lifestyles with their knowledge of summer camps into a business that runs the digital side of summer camp operations. Today, the company successfully runs the management software for around 800 camps throughout the United States.

“We help camps do more with less work by giving them the power to track attendance, automate billing tasks through payment plans, create new donor relationships, manage the entire staff application process, streamline the registration process, and much more,” notes the UltraCamp website. “All of this helps directors and managers recover the time they need to focus on what is really important: CAMP.”

After finding its new home base in a building in downtown Niles, Michigan, UltraCamp selected Abonmarche to design the architecture and interiors of the space. Previously occupying part of an old historical post office building, UltraCamp sought to up its square footage to accommodate its full staff, as well as break away from its mundane, uninspired previous digs. In addition to serving their needs on the business side, they wanted to inject their own active lifestyle mindset into a built environment.

“Our role as designers in this project, and in any project, is to extrapolate what our client is feeling, how their culture works – and expand and elevate those feelings into a built environment,” says Arvin Delacruz, Architect, AIA, NCARB, Abonmarche. UltraCamp’s culture was already very defined; it was our job to then articulate that in the built form.”

With an open, progressive, active spirit already in place, UltraCamp tasked the Abonmarche design team with creating a space that:

  • Would be a place of activity. “A rock climbing wall was a must.”
  • Could be used by a variety of age groups. “Their kids, ranging anywhere from toddler to teenage age, often come there.”
  • Have a variety of spaces for both collaborative and focus work
  • Include spaces that were multifunctioning

“They also said that, whatever we design – food was very important to them. The fellowship that comes with gathering around a meal is really engrained in their culture. The staff and their families really enjoy spending time together, and so they wanted their space to reflect and support that.”

UltraCamp seldom has clients come into their physical space, and much of their work has been done remotely in the past. A new workspace would enable everyone to come together into one space. While remote work was certainly effective in running the business, the UltraCamp team wanted an environment that people could come together and collaborate more easily in.

A Layered Workplace Strategy

The new UltraCamp space is split evenly between traditional office workspaces and lifestyle activity spaces for their staff, such as a rock climbing wall, foam ball pit, etc. Across 19,401 square feet of office space, 87% of the workspace is collaboration and/or amenity space, with primary individual workspaces making up the remaining 13%.

Although each staff member has an assigned workstation, there are no private, enclosed offices, and team members are not confined to their workstations.

“The mentality is that your office is the entire building. Even though the formal office square footage is small, the team makes use of the entire space. This project in particular featured a lot of layering of spaces, of blending amenity-focused and work-focused spaces.”

“We were constantly thinking about elevating quality of life, about changing postures throughout the work day, and of all of the physical ramifications that come with being inside a building for a good portion of your day. We were also paying attention to the natural amenities that the building gave us – for example, the incredible natural daylighting running through the space. UltraCamp is a wonderful case study of that.”

In addition to a rock-climbing wall and an underground laser tag facility, Abonmarche outfitted the space with a suspended gerbil tube that both children and adults can crawl through for a playful moment of fun.

“There was this suspended tube, originally meant for underground water storage, in its bright orange natural color that prompted us to look at a lot of materials in a new way. Instead of concealing this element, our design team incorporated it into the overall schematic design.  And beyond that, how do you look at an IT firm in a new way? These were types of questions we were concerned with answering through design.”

The second level opens up to an elevated “living room” space. Beyond is an expansive harvest table and a fully equipped kitchen, for both their own use and for having meals catered there for the staff.

Injecting Active Lifestyle Aesthetics

The UltraCamp space evokes a contemporary, playful aesthetic. The visual texture, furnishings and materials all reflect the invigorating lifestyle they have in place. All of those elements trickle up to how they’re able to create a positive impact for the clients they work with.

“This project was a study in materiality for our team. How do you transform really mundane materials, and elevate them so that they become an expression of design? How do you look at materials in a new way?”

UltraCamp wanted something you could live and be comfortable in, but at the same time show this really high tech world they operate in. It was about striking that balance to say, “This is a forward-thinking company, but one that is also mindful of the psychology of space – and of comfort.”

“We selected very bold colors that aren’t necessarily trendy but that speak to an active lifestyle. Set against a backdrop of neutral white are the bright oranges of the gerbil tube and rock climbing wall, bold blues and bright yellows as accent colors. We also wanted to bring in a natural element, to again connect with that active lifestyle culture. The sliding barn doors are made of recycled wood, and provide that warmer, natural tone.”

Staff and visitors feel equally at home settling down on the couch with a cup of coffee to have a high-level business meeting outside of the boardroom.

Stepping Outside the Box

“This project was especially gratifying because we were allowed to think outside the box. We were not confined to it having it be ‘this way or that way’. We let the space speak to us about how it needed to function, and what it should feel like. It still needed to function properly for the client, and so we paid close attention to creating spaces that the UltraCamp team would really use. We were able to meet the client’s directive – and go beyond that to elevate what they thought was possible.”

In addition to bringing all of UltraCamp’s staff together into one space, the new workspace also serves as a community center for downtown Niles, hosting various gatherings as an integral part of the downtown Niles scene since moving in June 2017. The new UltraCamp offices were a featured project in the Michigan Municipal League, the regional community business consultancy based in Ann Arbor, MI.

“This space was intended as a catalyst for continued growth in other business in Niles. The goal was to have people thinking, ‘If this company can do something like this in Niles, then I can too.'”

“And this is a space where Abonmarche is able to really shine as a firm. The acumen of design is not relegated to region – we’re a mid-sized Michigan/Indiana firm with a lot of powerful ideas that can translate to real community transformation.”

For more information on UltraCamp, visit. www.ultracamp.com.

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