Contract - Created Equal: Gunderson Dettmer reinvents itself in a new office designed by HOK

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Created Equal: Gunderson Dettmer reinvents itself in a new office designed by HOK

13 September, 2010

-By Jennifer Thiele Busch


Over the past two decades, the American legal profession has experienced a shake-up that has witnessed the demise of many a once-mighty firm, but has resulted in spin-offs of many more that are smaller, more nimble, and embrace a more progressive attitude toward the practice of law. One such firm is Gunderson Dettmer in Redwood City, Calif., which was founded by Robert Gunderson in 1995 with a handful of big-firm alums who saw the writing on the wall and joined him in a practice that pledged to be more entrepreneurial, like its tech-industry clients.

All this has been good news for design firms, which have found interesting and creative work with upstarts like Gunderson as they seek to build—literally and figuratively—offices that defy the marble and mahogany self-indulgence of the 1980s. These new spaces support the notion that today’s new breed of attorney is more efficient, economic, agile, and—dare we say—fun.

Louis Schump, a senior associate in the San Francisco office of HOK, has been lucky enough to “grow up” with Gunderson, and he recently designed the law firm’s second generation of offices in a corporate park in Redwood City. According to Schump, “We didn’t want to lose the energy and camaraderie of the first office,” where shared private offices were the standard for everyone from partners on down to legal secretaries and administrative support, and a subset of attorneys moved every six months to prevent the formation of cliques and mind-numbing comfort zones. “When you move people around,” says Gunderson, “you don’t get so set in your patterns of interaction.”

The new space, taken over from failed Internet entity Excite@Home, was “entirely intended to be for open offices,” notes Schump. “There was nothing about the structure, planning modules, or curtain wall that would have suggested enclosed offices.” Nevertheless, the space needed to accommodate Gunderson’s list of specific requirements, including universally sized offices that reflect the firm’s egalitarian attitude, and spaces outside offices and conference rooms that would provide a “third place to work.”

The biggest challenge to the new layout was a roof plan that included five large skylights. This feature became the project’s biggest asset, as the skylights determined the placement of open spaces versus private work areas. “The diagram, driven by the location of the five existing large skylights on the third floor, provided a clear organizing principle within the idiosyncratic building perimeter,” explains HOK senior designer Tanja Pink, who was the primary designer on the Gunderson project. Since private offices could not be placed under skylights, these areas became the public workspaces that Gunderson sought. Third floor private offices were organized around these “living rooms,” and the same plan was duplicated on the other two, 30,000-sq.-ft. floors. “We were inspired by a book on Swedish cottages,” explains Pink. “We tried to capture the idea that the circulation has multiple functions.” Thus, the living rooms become part of the circulation space, and each is uniquely furnished and lit to provide glimpses into Gunderson’s entrepreneurial culture.

The realities of the floor plan required a certain number of offices—some private, some shared—to be located on the interior. “We wanted to do a lot of things efficiently, and we wanted to treat everyone with equal respect and dignity,” explains Gunderson. So in order to drive daylight into the core and give everyone a strong visual connection with the surrounding landscape and views, which stretch beyond the corporate park setting to the San Francisco Bay, HOK enclosed all the offices in floor-to-ceiling glass. The result is in an extreme level of transparency and visual connection throughout the space.

“The thing that surprises me,” observes Schump, “is the role reflection has also played in the interior. When a cloud passes by this building, the entire color of the interior changes.” The effect is heightened by an almost complete lack of color in the materials palette. “The materials are simple and elegant,” says Gunderson. “And the offices are open and light, and look more like the spaces where our clients work.”

Because risk management and confidentiality are always important considerations in a legal practice, meeting zones for visiting clients on each of the three floors provide varying levels of visual privacy with solid walls and frosted glass. A cafeteria and law library almost round out the list of communal spaces, but there also are lofts, another quirky feature of the building. Accessed from the third floor by tread stairs—something you don’t see every day in a corporate law practice—these six mezzanine spaces are labeled “experimental” by Gunderson. “I don’t think they’ve been used extensively,” he admits, but says that, along with the living rooms, they play a symbolic role at the firm. “They are places you can go if you don’t want to be interrupted, and they reinforce the idea that you sometimes can get more work done if you are not in your office.

“It’s hard to break down all the different elements,” Gunderson concludes. “There is a set of things that have come together in this particular location that have been a big boost for us. We can say we are egalitarian, but putting attorneys in interior offices really demonstrates it.”

who
Project/owner: Gunderson Dettmer. Architecture firm name/location: HOK San Francisco; Louis Schump, project director; Tanja Pink, senior designer; Antonia Cardone, workplace strategy; Galit Szolomowicz, job captain; Peter Espe, project manager; Leah Duffy, technical; Anthony Pent, senior technical; Ann Ma, intern. Contractor: BCCI. Lighting consultant: Horton Lees Brogden. Engineering consultant: A.G.E. Acoustician: Wilson Ihrig. Furniture dealer: Hogue. Structural Engineer: C.S.E. Structural Engineers. Other consultant: Teledata. Photographer: David Wakely.

what
Paint: Benjamin Moore. Dry wall: USG. Carpet/carpet tile: InterfaceFLOR. Ceiling: Armstrong. Lighting: Focal Point, Waco, Delta, Zaneen, Delray, Xenon, LiteControl, LC-EUR, YLighting, Artemide. Doors: Mission Glass, Modern Fold. Glass: Mission Glass, Viracon, Vetrotech Saint-Gobain, Trespa. Workstations: Vitra, Davis, WorkRite. Workstation seating: Herman Miller. Lounge seating: HBF, Knoll, Bernhardt, Andreu World, Nienkamper, Kielhauer. Cafeteria, dining, auditorium seating: ICF, Acedemia. Other seating: Acedemia. Upholstery: Maharam, Carnegie, Designtex. Conference table: Vitra. Cafeteria, dining, training tables: Davis, Acedemia, ICF. Other tables: Knoll, Herman Miller. Files: Office Special, Space Saver. Shelving: Garcy Stud, Bay Area Woodwork. Architectural woodworking: Bay Area Woodwork. Planters, accessories: Lapeyre Stair. Signage: Swan Graphics. Plumbing fixtures: American Standard.

where
Location: Redwood City, CA. Total floor area: 90,000 sq. ft. No. of floors: 3. Average floor size: 30,000. Total staff size: 265.



Created Equal: Gunderson Dettmer reinvents itself in a new office designed by HOK

13 September, 2010


David Wakely

Over the past two decades, the American legal profession has experienced a shake-up that has witnessed the demise of many a once-mighty firm, but has resulted in spin-offs of many more that are smaller, more nimble, and embrace a more progressive attitude toward the practice of law. One such firm is Gunderson Dettmer in Redwood City, Calif., which was founded by Robert Gunderson in 1995 with a handful of big-firm alums who saw the writing on the wall and joined him in a practice that pledged to be more entrepreneurial, like its tech-industry clients.

All this has been good news for design firms, which have found interesting and creative work with upstarts like Gunderson as they seek to build—literally and figuratively—offices that defy the marble and mahogany self-indulgence of the 1980s. These new spaces support the notion that today’s new breed of attorney is more efficient, economic, agile, and—dare we say—fun.

Louis Schump, a senior associate in the San Francisco office of HOK, has been lucky enough to “grow up” with Gunderson, and he recently designed the law firm’s second generation of offices in a corporate park in Redwood City. According to Schump, “We didn’t want to lose the energy and camaraderie of the first office,” where shared private offices were the standard for everyone from partners on down to legal secretaries and administrative support, and a subset of attorneys moved every six months to prevent the formation of cliques and mind-numbing comfort zones. “When you move people around,” says Gunderson, “you don’t get so set in your patterns of interaction.”

The new space, taken over from failed Internet entity Excite@Home, was “entirely intended to be for open offices,” notes Schump. “There was nothing about the structure, planning modules, or curtain wall that would have suggested enclosed offices.” Nevertheless, the space needed to accommodate Gunderson’s list of specific requirements, including universally sized offices that reflect the firm’s egalitarian attitude, and spaces outside offices and conference rooms that would provide a “third place to work.”

The biggest challenge to the new layout was a roof plan that included five large skylights. This feature became the project’s biggest asset, as the skylights determined the placement of open spaces versus private work areas. “The diagram, driven by the location of the five existing large skylights on the third floor, provided a clear organizing principle within the idiosyncratic building perimeter,” explains HOK senior designer Tanja Pink, who was the primary designer on the Gunderson project. Since private offices could not be placed under skylights, these areas became the public workspaces that Gunderson sought. Third floor private offices were organized around these “living rooms,” and the same plan was duplicated on the other two, 30,000-sq.-ft. floors. “We were inspired by a book on Swedish cottages,” explains Pink. “We tried to capture the idea that the circulation has multiple functions.” Thus, the living rooms become part of the circulation space, and each is uniquely furnished and lit to provide glimpses into Gunderson’s entrepreneurial culture.

The realities of the floor plan required a certain number of offices—some private, some shared—to be located on the interior. “We wanted to do a lot of things efficiently, and we wanted to treat everyone with equal respect and dignity,” explains Gunderson. So in order to drive daylight into the core and give everyone a strong visual connection with the surrounding landscape and views, which stretch beyond the corporate park setting to the San Francisco Bay, HOK enclosed all the offices in floor-to-ceiling glass. The result is in an extreme level of transparency and visual connection throughout the space.

“The thing that surprises me,” observes Schump, “is the role reflection has also played in the interior. When a cloud passes by this building, the entire color of the interior changes.” The effect is heightened by an almost complete lack of color in the materials palette. “The materials are simple and elegant,” says Gunderson. “And the offices are open and light, and look more like the spaces where our clients work.”

Because risk management and confidentiality are always important considerations in a legal practice, meeting zones for visiting clients on each of the three floors provide varying levels of visual privacy with solid walls and frosted glass. A cafeteria and law library almost round out the list of communal spaces, but there also are lofts, another quirky feature of the building. Accessed from the third floor by tread stairs—something you don’t see every day in a corporate law practice—these six mezzanine spaces are labeled “experimental” by Gunderson. “I don’t think they’ve been used extensively,” he admits, but says that, along with the living rooms, they play a symbolic role at the firm. “They are places you can go if you don’t want to be interrupted, and they reinforce the idea that you sometimes can get more work done if you are not in your office.

“It’s hard to break down all the different elements,” Gunderson concludes. “There is a set of things that have come together in this particular location that have been a big boost for us. We can say we are egalitarian, but putting attorneys in interior offices really demonstrates it.”

who
Project/owner: Gunderson Dettmer. Architecture firm name/location: HOK San Francisco; Louis Schump, project director; Tanja Pink, senior designer; Antonia Cardone, workplace strategy; Galit Szolomowicz, job captain; Peter Espe, project manager; Leah Duffy, technical; Anthony Pent, senior technical; Ann Ma, intern. Contractor: BCCI. Lighting consultant: Horton Lees Brogden. Engineering consultant: A.G.E. Acoustician: Wilson Ihrig. Furniture dealer: Hogue. Structural Engineer: C.S.E. Structural Engineers. Other consultant: Teledata. Photographer: David Wakely.

what
Paint: Benjamin Moore. Dry wall: USG. Carpet/carpet tile: InterfaceFLOR. Ceiling: Armstrong. Lighting: Focal Point, Waco, Delta, Zaneen, Delray, Xenon, LiteControl, LC-EUR, YLighting, Artemide. Doors: Mission Glass, Modern Fold. Glass: Mission Glass, Viracon, Vetrotech Saint-Gobain, Trespa. Workstations: Vitra, Davis, WorkRite. Workstation seating: Herman Miller. Lounge seating: HBF, Knoll, Bernhardt, Andreu World, Nienkamper, Kielhauer. Cafeteria, dining, auditorium seating: ICF, Acedemia. Other seating: Acedemia. Upholstery: Maharam, Carnegie, Designtex. Conference table: Vitra. Cafeteria, dining, training tables: Davis, Acedemia, ICF. Other tables: Knoll, Herman Miller. Files: Office Special, Space Saver. Shelving: Garcy Stud, Bay Area Woodwork. Architectural woodworking: Bay Area Woodwork. Planters, accessories: Lapeyre Stair. Signage: Swan Graphics. Plumbing fixtures: American Standard.

where
Location: Redwood City, CA. Total floor area: 90,000 sq. ft. No. of floors: 3. Average floor size: 30,000. Total staff size: 265.
 


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