Innovation-minded Toro revitalizes its campus with an elegantly minimalist office building that frees up space for research and development

By John Reinan

The Toro Company built its reputation on innovation in turf care and landscaping. Since 1952, the company’s research and development facility in Bloomington, Minnesota, has doubled as a corporate headquarters and office. But as the $2.2 billion company grew, its sprawling, one-story postwar campus no longer met corporate needs. In particular, space for R&D was getting squeezed—not the ideal situation for a technology-driven company that competes internationally. It was time for the engineers to reclaim their turf.

Toro decided on a dedicated office building, which would free up space for product development labs in the existing facility while providing additional meeting and training areas. The company chose the Minneapolis office of Leo A Daly to design the three-level, 75,000-square-foot structure.

“It was very much about creating a building that was going to tie in with our existing campus but still be unique,” says Heather Hille, director, corporate counsel, for Toro.

The unassuming company wasn’t interested in a flashy monument to itself. The challenge given to the designers, says Hille, was creating a highly functional building that would blend into the landscape. Toro wanted a building that would successfully complement its original facility while physically highlighting the company’s expertise in landscaping and turf.

The company originally considered an addition to the 400,000-square-foot main building, which had already been expanded numerous times. In fact, that was what the original RFP called for. But as architects studied the problem, “what made more sense in the long term was to step back and look at what they could do with the overall campus,” says Bill Baxley, AIA, director of design at Leo A Daly. “I give Toro a lot of credit for being flexible in their thinking. Ultimately, they decided to invest in that site and to remake their presence in Bloomington.”

The new building brings the Toro message to life visually and functionally. The exterior features a composite metal-panel rain-screen system with a mottled red finish. “It’s not exactly Toro red, but it’s illustrative of that,” Baxley explains. “It alludes to it without being literal.” Another exterior surface is a highly texturized, precast concrete panel that reads black, “creating the idea of a dialogue between the Toro products and the building,” he says.

High-performance reflective glass was used throughout, making portions of the building “kind of dematerialize,” says Baxley. A wide, glass-lined link between the two buildings conveys employees and equipment. “Two giant chunks of curtain wall [in the link] slide open,” says Baxley. “So it facilitates the movement of product through the building. You can drive a tractor into the building and through it.

“The glazing on the south side of the building looks onto a beautiful pond and a courtyard,” he continues. “So while people are inside working, they’re connected to the landscape, which is what their business is all about.”

Two large green-roof areas provide another important connection, allowing Toro to demonstrate the capabilities of its precision drip irrigation systems. Both can be seen from a generous terrace, one of a number of meeting and “landing” spaces in the new building. Hille says people were using the cafeteria in the old building as an impromptu meeting space because there was high demand for informal gathering areas.

The project also was designed to maximize natural light, which is in short supply in the existing facility. All of the open office areas lie along the perimeter of the floors, with hard-walled offices in the center.

The new building is raising the profile of the company, which celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2014. “We had an understated presence at the corner of Lyndale Avenue and American Boulevard,” says Hille. “We were rather low profile, and purposely so. But when we cleared the site and revitalized everything, it really started to look like a cohesive campus.”

Location: Bloomington, Minnesota
Client: The Toro Company
Architect: Leo A Daly
Principal-in-charge: Ted Redmond, AIA
Project lead designer: William Baxley, AIA
Landscape architect: Leo A Daly
Construction manager: Ryan Companies
Size: 75,000 square feet
Completion: June 2014
Photographer: William Baxley, AIA