Change, when understood correctly, begins with oneself


The City of Knowledge Foundation operated during its first 17 years in Clayton in Cold War spaces inherited from the US Southern Command with few remodels.

Long dark hallways and gypsum walls created mazes and surroundings with almost no windows or natural lighting, which weren’t suitable for interaction and the well-being of the foundation’s team members. In order to continue its mission of generating positive social change, the organization needed to evolve to a new level; to address this matter, a new office project was set in motion in 2015.

For this project we had the Panamanian architecture firm Edward McGrath & Associates work on the design along with a cross-functional team from the foundation with the purpose of providing the staff, customers, and visitors with a work space that would harness collaboration and inspire everyone.

The design of the offices that were inaugurated in 2017 reflects the identity, institutional culture, and the values of the NGO, highlighting among them transparency, connectivity, and open spaces, as well as honesty in the use of materials.

Another one of the achievements of the project has been to facilitate communication, collaboration, and networking of the team members. For this purpose, it was designed with the intention of generating a balance between open and closed spaces as well as the areas for formal and informal gatherings, in a way that encourages innovation among colleagues and promotes the creation and exchange of knowledge.

The design of the new offices has strengthened productivity among co-workers in such a way that the time and resources invested in reaching the goals and developing projects is better managed, increasing the quality of the work areas and therefore people’s well-being, offering natural lighting for everyone, outside views, ergonomics, quality of the indoor environment and equal space depending on the duties.

The foundation has implemented the best sustainability practices in the design, construction, and operation of its new offices, emphasizing the following principles as priorities: efficient use of electricity and drinking water, use of harmless and clean material, access to natural lighting, quality of indoor air, and appropriate handling of solid waste. The project also sought to minimize environmental impact and optimize costs in the stage of execution of the works as well as the operation of the new facilities.

The offices of the foundation have been certified as LEED Platinum by the Green Building Certification Institute in the interior design category.


In 2013, before starting the project of the new offices, the wing of building #104 of the City of Knowledge that houses the foundation was remodeled. This process returned the window bays to their original large dimensions and removed added elements, most from the 1960’s: suspended ceilings, walls, and coverings.This process helped reinstate spaciousness and continuity of the indoor spaces, as well as the original austere industrial appearance, leaving the concrete surfaces of its framed walls and pillars bare. The remodeling also rescued the visual connection of the indoor spaces with the outdoors and the views to the Panama Canal.

The City of Knowledge Foundation requested that the Edward McGrath & Associates proposal reconcile the historical values of the building with an esthetically cutting-edge look and the requirements of a sustainable building.

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