One of the zaniest, most eye-popping destinations on the Madison Fling tour in June was the corporate headquarters of medical-software giant Epic Systems, located in the rolling farm country of Verona, Wisconsin. Soulless lawns, sprawling junipers, boxwood hedges, and other ubiquitous ground-fillers of corporate landscaping are banished at Epic. God only knows what they spend on garden design and maintenance, not to mention architecture and interior design, but the result is a geeky, color-saturated, over-the-top playland for adults. Walking through Epic’s 1,100-acre campus is like dropping into Oz in all its technicolor glory. Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore.
The 43-year-old company founded by billionaire CEO Judy Faulkner “has 9,800 employees…and $2.9 billion in annual revenue. More than 250 million people worldwide have medical records on software created by Epic,” according to Madison.com. “Epic’s Verona campus encompasses…22 office buildings, two large food service buildings, a training center with 65 training rooms and a 5,800-seat auditorium, and the Deep Space auditorium that seats 11,400.”
Due to time constraints and the sheer size of the place, we only saw a portion of the Epic campus, which is organized into 5 smaller campuses of theme-park-like office buildings. Today in Part 1, I’ll show you the Storybook Campus with 5 buildings and gardens representing classic children’s stories, starting with Oz.
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In Oz a green-tiled building with spiked turrets stands in for the Emerald City — and yes, masses of red poppies lead up to it (thankfully, not the narcotic kind).
And a last look across the poppies to the apple tree. The green-and-red onion dome beyond belongs to…
…the Jules Vern building, referencing Around the World in 80 Days and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.
A garden of grasses and salvias undulates in front of the building like a rippling, blue-green sea.
And lo and behold, there’s the giant squid wrapping its tentacled arms around the Nautilus in a pool of blue glass.
The Chocolate Factory
Next door, an industrial-looking building invites you in through a “chocolate” arch.
Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory is fronted by a garden of flowering perennials, shrubs, and trees.
I bet pollinators love this garden.
Playful glass spirals à la Chihuly…
and orbs add extra color.
Purple salvia is complemented by a purple lollipop-like orb. In the distance looms…
…a Northern European-style structure that evokes Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Nordic-looking trees and grasses create the illusion of a meadow at a forest’s edge.
A fairy ring of toadstools stands amid meadowy grasses.
A red-capped gnome seems to warn you away with a worried expression.
It’s all done on a vast scale. And how nice to have meadow grasses instead of lawn, right?
Of course there’s a gingerbread house in Grimm.
It’s a conference room! Outside, the Little Red Riding Hood wolf dressed up in Grandmother’s clothing stands by to greet you.
What big teeth you have.
Hints of Alice in Wonderland appear nearby, with a grinning Cheshire Cat in a window…
…and another tucked into a garden bed.
The Emerald City is a bit distracting in the background, but I believe this is the Queen of Hearts’ croquet lawn, with chairs where one size makes you larger, and one size makes you small.
Shades of green and gold in Wonderland
The entrance to the Alice building is decked out with card guards and hearts.
We got to see the inside of the Alice building, and what a surprise it is! Epic goes all in on a theme.
I’d forgotten that there’s an upside-down room in Wonderland, but Epic hasn’t. A staircase, chandelier, and hat rack float upside down…
…and even a bird in a cage. Can you imagine working in an office surrounded by such playful decor? Would it inspire creativity? Would you become blind to it over time? I wonder…
King’s Cross Station
A few minutes later we were suddenly in King’s Cross Station in London and the realm of Harry Potter.
In the center of the “station” — a cafeteria, with train platforms labeled along the walls. I looked but didn’t see Platform 9-3/4. Copyright issues, I assume.
Another hallway provides a canvas for colorful murals, including a rainbow-esque stretch…
…an anime-style face…
…and a…yellow panda?
This one reminds me of a Banksy.
In a lobby/dining hall I spotted a sculptural work embodying the fauna of North America.
Or perhaps Mother Nature?
Up next: Part 2 of my tour of Epic’s campus, including an enormous green roof planted with prairie perennials and more themed gardens. For a look back at the sun-to-shade garden of Rita Thomas, click here.
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