Contract - Eloquent Transformation: Koning Eizenberg creates a collegial workspace for Thornton Tomasetti in Los Angeles

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Eloquent Transformation: Koning Eizenberg creates a collegial workspace for Thornton Tomasetti in Los Angeles

23 May, 2011

-By Michael Webb


You can learn a lot about a company while waiting in its lobby. At the new Los Angeles office of Thornton Tomasetti, an international structural engineering firm responsible for some of the world’s tallest buildings, an L-plan reception desk is dramatically cantilevered from the back wall. Above is a relief composed of green plastic safety-caps that are used on steel reinforcing bars during construction. Silver-painted caps project from the wall to spell the name of the firm, and a wave pattern in the grid suggests a seismic shock. The furnishings are spare—low chairs flanking a concrete table—and the ceiling ducts are exposed. An oversized glass door to the conference room pivots off-center, exposing its laminated plywood frame. The message is one of creativity, clarity, and economy—just what a visiting architect or contractor wants to hear.

After taking a five-year lease on an 11,000-sq.-ft. space that had been built out for a previous tenant on the second floor of a glassy high-rise near Los Angeles International Airport, the company commissioned Koning Eizenberg Architecture, with whom it had collaborated on the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum, to transform the interior, quickly and on a tight budget. “We were looking for something with a studio environment,” says Bruce Gibbons, senior principal. “Over a year-long search, a lot of the spaces we saw were laid out with perimeter offices and a central bull pen that had no natural lighting. We wanted something quite different. Our staff asked for better workstations, more layout space, and interesting views. Most of all, they wanted to feel part of a single office.”

Hank Koning and Julie Eizenberg moved from their native Melbourne to study at UCLA and establish their husband-wife partnership in Santa Monica, Calif, in 1981. Frugality and problem-solving are hallmarks of their diversified practice, which has embraced a wide range of building types. They understood that the Los Angeles office of Thornton Tomasetti had a solid reputation but wanted to tackle more adventurous projects and to attract employees who shared this vision. Its previous office fell short, as did the existing layout of the space they found. “It wasn’t structured for a collegial environment,” recalls Eizenberg. “The front entry was chopped up and dated. There were high partitions so you couldn’t see out or across. Our policy is to keep whatever works, but here we took away more than we added. The look was important. In hard times an engineering company shouldn’t look as though it’s going to charge you an arm and a leg so that they can live in comfort.”

The architects uncovered the ceiling to show that the way things are put together has value. Carpet tiles and a perforated soffit absorb sound in the conference room, but elsewhere the concrete floor and service ducts are left uncovered. The slightly curved façade of the building faces northeast, which allowed the architects to maximize natural lighting without having to utilize the Levolor blinds that the building owner requires their tenants to install. Elegant fluorescent light fittings are suspended over the work areas and provide sufficient illumination without recourse to task lighting. The corporate colors of orange and green are intensified to establish a rhythm within the different areas. A loop of circulation reaches back from the reception area, past a cluster of five, small private offices, encircling the open work area. The outer spine curves with the wall, forcing the perspective, and a seating bench that doubles as a bookshelf extends for its full length, promoting casual meetings.

Existing partitions were chopped down by 12 in. so that staff felt protected while they were sitting down but could look over and talk to their neighbors when they were standing. Perforated boxes atop the dividers provide a porous screen and extra storage to leave the worksurfaces free for computer screens and the large shop drawings that engineers are still using in this digital age. There were 24 employees when the project began, but it’s designed to accommodate twice as many. “As your organization grows, you want to ensure that everyone feels part of the whole,” says Eizenberg, whose own architectural office is a model of integrated activities. “The small meeting spaces nesting amid the workstations may or may not be used, but they show that management values the time staff spends together.”

At the outset, the client hoped that few changes would be required—little more than “a lick of paint,” as Gibbons puts it. Koning Eizenberg convinced him it was worth making an effort to make significant improvements, and now he’s pleased they did. The job was completed in four-and-a-half months at a cost of $33 per sq. ft. “We’ve had good feedback from architects,” says Gibbons. “The impact has been huge in relation to our investment.”

who
Owner: Thornton Tomasetti. Architect, interior designer, structural engineer consultant: Koning Eizenberg Architecture, Inc.; Julie Eizenberg, AIA, principal; Hank Koning, FAIA, FRAIA, LEED AP, principal; Oonagh Ryan project designer/manager; Roderick Villafranca, architect, project designer. Contractor: Corporate Contractors, Inc. Furniture dealer: Mindi Faris. Photographer: Eric Staudenmaier.

what
Paint: Benjamin Moore. Carpet/carpet tile: Interface. Lighting: Bartco. Workstations, shelving: Haworth, MASH Studios. Workstation seating: Herman Miller. Other seating: Haworth, Jasper Morrison. Upholstery: Luna, Brisa. Conference/other tables, files: Haworth. Signage: American Allsafe (rebar caps).

where
Location: Los Angeles, CA. Total floor area: 11,000 sq. ft. No. of floors: 1. Total staff size: 30. Cost/sq. ft.: $33.




Eloquent Transformation: Koning Eizenberg creates a collegial workspace for Thornton Tomasetti in Los Angeles

23 May, 2011


Eric Staudenmaier

You can learn a lot about a company while waiting in its lobby. At the new Los Angeles office of Thornton Tomasetti, an international structural engineering firm responsible for some of the world’s tallest buildings, an L-plan reception desk is dramatically cantilevered from the back wall. Above is a relief composed of green plastic safety-caps that are used on steel reinforcing bars during construction. Silver-painted caps project from the wall to spell the name of the firm, and a wave pattern in the grid suggests a seismic shock. The furnishings are spare—low chairs flanking a concrete table—and the ceiling ducts are exposed. An oversized glass door to the conference room pivots off-center, exposing its laminated plywood frame. The message is one of creativity, clarity, and economy—just what a visiting architect or contractor wants to hear.

After taking a five-year lease on an 11,000-sq.-ft. space that had been built out for a previous tenant on the second floor of a glassy high-rise near Los Angeles International Airport, the company commissioned Koning Eizenberg Architecture, with whom it had collaborated on the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum, to transform the interior, quickly and on a tight budget. “We were looking for something with a studio environment,” says Bruce Gibbons, senior principal. “Over a year-long search, a lot of the spaces we saw were laid out with perimeter offices and a central bull pen that had no natural lighting. We wanted something quite different. Our staff asked for better workstations, more layout space, and interesting views. Most of all, they wanted to feel part of a single office.”

Hank Koning and Julie Eizenberg moved from their native Melbourne to study at UCLA and establish their husband-wife partnership in Santa Monica, Calif, in 1981. Frugality and problem-solving are hallmarks of their diversified practice, which has embraced a wide range of building types. They understood that the Los Angeles office of Thornton Tomasetti had a solid reputation but wanted to tackle more adventurous projects and to attract employees who shared this vision. Its previous office fell short, as did the existing layout of the space they found. “It wasn’t structured for a collegial environment,” recalls Eizenberg. “The front entry was chopped up and dated. There were high partitions so you couldn’t see out or across. Our policy is to keep whatever works, but here we took away more than we added. The look was important. In hard times an engineering company shouldn’t look as though it’s going to charge you an arm and a leg so that they can live in comfort.”

The architects uncovered the ceiling to show that the way things are put together has value. Carpet tiles and a perforated soffit absorb sound in the conference room, but elsewhere the concrete floor and service ducts are left uncovered. The slightly curved façade of the building faces northeast, which allowed the architects to maximize natural lighting without having to utilize the Levolor blinds that the building owner requires their tenants to install. Elegant fluorescent light fittings are suspended over the work areas and provide sufficient illumination without recourse to task lighting. The corporate colors of orange and green are intensified to establish a rhythm within the different areas. A loop of circulation reaches back from the reception area, past a cluster of five, small private offices, encircling the open work area. The outer spine curves with the wall, forcing the perspective, and a seating bench that doubles as a bookshelf extends for its full length, promoting casual meetings.

Existing partitions were chopped down by 12 in. so that staff felt protected while they were sitting down but could look over and talk to their neighbors when they were standing. Perforated boxes atop the dividers provide a porous screen and extra storage to leave the worksurfaces free for computer screens and the large shop drawings that engineers are still using in this digital age. There were 24 employees when the project began, but it’s designed to accommodate twice as many. “As your organization grows, you want to ensure that everyone feels part of the whole,” says Eizenberg, whose own architectural office is a model of integrated activities. “The small meeting spaces nesting amid the workstations may or may not be used, but they show that management values the time staff spends together.”

At the outset, the client hoped that few changes would be required—little more than “a lick of paint,” as Gibbons puts it. Koning Eizenberg convinced him it was worth making an effort to make significant improvements, and now he’s pleased they did. The job was completed in four-and-a-half months at a cost of $33 per sq. ft. “We’ve had good feedback from architects,” says Gibbons. “The impact has been huge in relation to our investment.”

who
Owner: Thornton Tomasetti. Architect, interior designer, structural engineer consultant: Koning Eizenberg Architecture, Inc.; Julie Eizenberg, AIA, principal; Hank Koning, FAIA, FRAIA, LEED AP, principal; Oonagh Ryan project designer/manager; Roderick Villafranca, architect, project designer. Contractor: Corporate Contractors, Inc. Furniture dealer: Mindi Faris. Photographer: Eric Staudenmaier.

what
Paint: Benjamin Moore. Carpet/carpet tile: Interface. Lighting: Bartco. Workstations, shelving: Haworth, MASH Studios. Workstation seating: Herman Miller. Other seating: Haworth, Jasper Morrison. Upholstery: Luna, Brisa. Conference/other tables, files: Haworth. Signage: American Allsafe (rebar caps).

where
Location: Los Angeles, CA. Total floor area: 11,000 sq. ft. No. of floors: 1. Total staff size: 30. Cost/sq. ft.: $33.

 


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