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AIA Tours Interior Design:

Innovative Santa Monica office space was the focus of the Los Angeles chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in this year’s Spring Interior Architecture Tour: The Office Reinvented, on Saturday, May 5, which visited the amazing Red Bull space, the elegant Entravision offices and the purple Yahoo! facilities.

Each year, the AIA chapter selects a walkable area of greater Los Angeles for its interiors tour. This year’s tour director Walter Cousineau of Knoll explained that last year, it was a subway-assisted tour of downtown Los Angeles; and the year before, a “vertical tour” of the MGM building in Century City. This year, it was new Santa Monica interior spaces at the east end of town.

The AIA crowd gathered at Santa Monica architects HLW on Stewart Street for breakfast, and then moved on to HLW client Red Bull’s offices in the old PaperMate space on Stewart just off Olympic Boulevard. This is an extensive renovation of an existing 100,000 sq. ft. industrial building which now serves as North American Headquarters and a distribution center for the energy drink company.

One-fourth of the space is a distribution warehouse, and the remaining 75,000 square feet is an enormous office area dominated by The Wave – an undulating surface 40 feet wide and 420 feet long that slowly rises from the entry courtyard to become the ceiling of conference rooms, dips back to floor level, rises again to shelter a lunchroom area, and finally descends to become the floor of the corporate theater at the back of the building.

HLW project manager Chari Jalali explained that The Wave not only evokes Red Bull’s “extreme sports” image, but it also reduces the useable square footage of office space so the company was able to comply with parking requirements. Both the front wall of the building (a 50-foot-wide glass bi-fold door) and the acoustic wall that closes off the theater retract to the ceiling to create a dramatic outdoor/indoor experience.

The Entravision Communications offices in the Water Garden complex (bounded by Olympic and Cloverfield boulevards, Colorado Avenue and 26th Street) were designed by Rey Viquez 10 years ago when he was at the Gensler architecture firm. Now at WWCOT in Santa Monica, he was approached by the Spanish language television company to update its existing space in connection with an office expansion.

The offices, which Viquez described as very traditional “beige-on-beige,” got new carpet, lighting, panel fabrics and a palette of wall paint “to increase the visual impact” of the company’s “constantly evolving collection of Latin American artwork,” as the WWCOT brochure accurately states. The redone “executive balcony” – really a large outdoor den – overlooking the Water Garden pool and fountains is breathtaking.

The 13,000-square-foot project was completed in four weeks of exclusively after-hours work.

The Yahoo Media Group offices occupy 165,000 square feet and six floors at Cloverfield Boulevard and Broadway; this is the first of several buildings that Yahoo plans to occupy in the re-named Yahoo Center. Gensler undertook the design for a client that had very specific requirements about recreating its headquarters space in Sunnyvale, California.

Commenting on the dynamics of the architect/client relationship, Gensler Senior Designer Lee Pasteris said, “One of the things we learned is that a little bit of purple goes a long way,” as she stood in front of a dramatic reception-room wall. The sixth floor executive offices feature a state-of-the-art conference room that was particularly challenging inasmuch as it sits directly beneath noisy rooftop mechanical equipment – an unseen dome-like shell now encases the room.

Gensler hosted a Cinco de Mayo luncheon in its offices (also in the Yahoo Center), and the AIA group dispersed from Santa Monica well-fed in the belly after feasting its eyes on fine design all morning.

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