Loft-style office space with geometric design, sculptural furniture, activity-based working

Arup satellite office in downtown LA by Zago Architecture designed for activity-based work, with a variety of desks, seating, collaborative hubs, sustainable design

Applied geometry  this satellite office for leading interior design, product design, gray
Applied geometry this satellite office for leading engineering design firm Arup is in downtown Los Angeles. The company chose an activity-based working model, with a bold, sculptural fit-out designed by Zago Architecture.

Change in the workplace is not always readily accepted, especially if it's perceived as radical. Sometimes, the best plan is to introduce new concepts gradually, which is exactly what global engineering design consultancy Arup has done in Los Angeles.

The company recently established a satellite office in the downtown area, to be closer to key clients, and to limit travelling time for workers. Planned as a touch-down space where people could work for several hours or days at a time, the office presented a unique design opportunity, says Arup principal Jon Phillips.

"For several years, we have talked in the main LA office about the idea of activity-based working, whereby people are not hampered by a fixed desk structure. In the current arrangement, no single seating solution is ideal; people need to be able to collaborate at times, and work on a set of drawings which requires space. So we explored the activity-based working concept for the satellite office it is already in use in Arup offices in Australia."

Arup collaborated closely with Zago Architecture throughout the entire design process, giving the architects a very open brief in terms of aesthetics.

"We wanted the space to be very different from our corporate office," says Phillips. "We required more of a studio feel, and we wanted to challenge people to think differently. It needed to be invigorating and creative, and it needed to reflect our innovative approach to engineering design."

A trapezoidal table in the video-conferencing room of electronic device, institution, office, technology, gray
A trapezoidal table in the video-conferencing room of the downtown Arup office in LA continues the geometric theme. The existing concrete floor throughout the office was exposed and sealed.

Architect Andrew Zago says the existing building and the space itself were spare and box-like.

"This prompted the idea of introducing very bold, oversized elements into the building, so it would look as though they had just arrived there and were a little too big for the space.

"This in turn led to the theme of an enclosed capsule element that transforms into the office furniture. If you begin to unpeel the capsule, long arms branch out to become tables, storage and seating areas. That is how we developed the more unusual forms. They are not haphazard they all come from the same sculptural base."

In keeping with the need to provide a variety of work areas, the tables are of different heights, and include a work surface at standing height. There is also a long, upholstered bench seat, and three meeting rooms of varying sizes, with glass walls for sound privacy.

The desk surfaces are made from Richlite, which comprises layers of recycled paper cast into a phenolic resin and coated with hand-rubbed oils.

In the satellite Arup office in downtown LA architecture, product design, structure, black, gray
In the satellite Arup office in downtown LA the sculptural furniture appears to peel open from a series of enclosed capsules. Desking and seating elements are positioned at different angles to allow a degree of privacy. Some desk areas are also arranged to provide sightlines to the walls that serve as projector screens. The design is by Zago Architecture.

The furniture in the main office is mainly, but not completely, contained within a large rectangle the geometry is echoed on the floor in bright orange, yellow and grey linoleum, and in a suspended ceiling element made from perforated aluminium. This sits below the exposed services, enhancing the semi-industrial studio feel of the space.

"The suspended metal ceiling is not just an architectural element," says Zago. "It also accommodates the LED lighting strip and features sound attenuators, so the hard surfaces don't echo."

Not surprisingly, for an engineering design firm, embedded technology is a given. There are video conferencing facilities and two areas where a short-range projector can throw images onto the walls. Writable walls are another feature.

Phillips says staff feedback shows the fit-out is somewhat polarising.

"People either love it or hate it there's no grey area. But more and more people are choosing to spend time in the office because it works for them and they really enjoy the space. We anticipate a gradual roll-out of the activity-based working model to other offices."

Credit list

Arup satellite office, downtown Los Angeles
Design collaboration and engineering
Arup, Los Angeles Jon Phillips and Robert Pallmann with Eric Leftwich, Toby Lewis, Vahan Magaryan, Patrick Noll, James Tobey, Matt Wilkinson, David Wilts, Randy Yoshimura
Custom fabrication
Large lacquered furniture and Richlite desk surfaces by MOC Woodworking; aluminium suspended acoustic and LED lighting by Farrage & Company; powdercoated steel conference tables with Richlite surfaces by CL Innovative Design
LED lights
Architectural Lighting Works
Pendant lights
Tech Lighting
Window shades
Work surfaces
Acoustic panels in conference rooms
Fabricmate Systems
Zago Architecture Andrew Zago, Laura Bouwman, Dale Strong
General contractor
Parker Brown, Inc
Wallwasher lights
Vode Lighting
Erasable wall surfaces
Glass walls and doors
Oakstone Glass Corporation
Recessed power and data receptacles

Story by: Colleen Hawkes

18 Apr, 2015

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