Change (Management) Begins at Home
The 2016 merger of our Santa Monica and Pasadena offices did far more than unite two thriving studios with distinct specialties. It showed us first-hand how to harness the power of design in a changing office landscape. Our experienced design team took the opportunity to push boundaries and create a living laboratory. Our LA office is a place that celebrates diversity of work styles and builds a deeper knowledge of the nuanced effects the built environment has on the culture of an organization. The design experience gave our team a unique view of the client's perspective on how design tools can foster a strong office culture.
Located just 30 miles apart, our Santa Monica and Pasadena practices had distinct office cultures. The Santa Monica office specialized in long-term projects that required heads-down attention to detail. By contrast, the Pasadena office's bread and butter was fast-paced projects that required people to adapt constantly and shift on the fly.
The challenge was to design a workplace that respected the energy and heritage of each location while planning an environment that looked forward to the future of the united office. We created an office landscape that gave choice and variety to the types of spaces. Every day, we encourage each person to choose the best spot to get their best work done in an office as diverse as Los Angeles itself.
The lessons we learned in crafting our own studio proved invaluable when a prominent entertainment client asked us to design a new 100,000-square-foot space to consolidate employees from several different offices across the San Fernando Valley. The client's leadership initially anticipated the single-story warehouse building would house roughly 650 people, but our detailed process of department interviews, surveys, and site observations unearthed nearly 100 additional employees working at remote locations who needed to be brought into the fold.
The client's leadership immediately understood that the entire division would be strengthened if everyone on the team had a central place to come together to work and collaborate. The challenge was the space itself: The building remained the same size regardless of how many people it could accommodate. The solution came from our own experience implementing a choice-based environment. The client embraced the philosophy of a combination office: Assigned desks for team members who worked in the building every day, and free-address seats in a range of working environments for those who frequented the building less regularly.
To give so many people a workplace that would bring out their best, we made the entire office a place they could call home, whether they work at a desk or in one of the multiple shared spaces we introduced to maximize face-to-face contact and spontaneous collaborations. The entire office revolves around a central hub, a workplace version of Town Hall, easily accessed from every corner of the floor. Diverse communities of workstations surround this open, free-flowing core, not unlike residential neighborhoods adjacent to a village square. Bold colors, engaging experiential graphic design, and distinct architectural portals give each community its own unique identity.
A wide variety of meeting rooms, social spaces, and an amphitheater provide the connective tissue for this interlaced map of broad avenues and intimate alleyways. These include lounge-style conference areas, community kitchen tables, rooms for deep focus, and analog rooms blissfully free from the digital interruptions of modern life. Just like in our own office, employees are trusted to work in whichever environment they need to feel productive and engaged throughout each day.
When it was completed, the choice-based office not only seamlessly blended employees from a variety of functions within the group. It created an entirely new cultural awareness that focused on inclusion and connection. The leadership group was so moved by the power of design to shape and support the team in new ways that it is currently undergoing a rebranding campaign and a name change to reflect its new outlook.
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