November 29, 2012

Sliding Into Sustainability: Joey Shimoda Turns an LA Warehouse into an Office

Joey Shimoda knows workplaces—whether tight and polished or expansive and raw. This space, more than 50,000 square feet in a Los Angeles former warehouse, falls into the latter category. It’s an example of the new “young” office paradigm: an open nonhierarchical configuration with an industrial, pet-friendly aesthetic. Its modesty reflects the environmentally sensitive culture of and request for anonymity by the client, a philanthropically oriented fashion-accessories company with a staff of 400.

The company’s former headquarters, 7,000 square feet in the old Sci-Arc complex, was little more than a group of dark shacks. So as rough as these new digs are, they’re comparatively luxurious in space, light, and scale. That is, after Shimoda Design Group opened up blacked-out windows, inserted 21 round skylights, and exploded the volume “by blowing holes in the second floor for a mezzanine,” recalls the architect.

Much of what principal Shimoda did is not readily apparent to the eye but was crucial in terms of business. He took a helter-skelter layout and reorganized it to create logical adjacencies and interconnections between sales, production, and e-commerce departments. Two such connections, a pair of giant royal-blue slides linking the mezzanine to the ground floor, provide the project’s main pop of color. An exercise studio, 22 compact conference rooms, and an all-purpose gathering space near reception round out the offerings.

Reclaimed timber, steel, and concrete—humble and untreated—are among the office’s foremost materials. “We built only what’s needed,” Shimoda says, referring to the project’s minimal use of drywall. As well as reusing 125 desks and chairs from the previous quarters, he constructed additional workstations of equally simple particleboard and MDF.

Shimoda reserved his biggest moves for outdoors, adding a deck, dog run, bocce ball court, and pup tents. “Everything is wireless, but devices still need juice. So, we ran electricity under the trees.” That makes for another 15,000 square feet of workspace, L.A. style.

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