Photography by Claudio Santini

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Anyone who’s watched a Super Bowl is probably familiar with the work of design and advertising agency 72andSunny, perhaps particularly the ads involving curvaceous blondes biting into Carl’s Junior burgers. Founded in 2004 with offices in Los Angeles, Amsterdam, and later, New York, the company, with its celebrity campaigns, avid surfers as co-founders, and name referencing Southern California’s much-touted ideal weather, plays all too neatly into stereotypes. But there is much more to 72andSunny, a two-time agency of the year for Advertising Age and Adweek with a client list of many household brands, such as Adidas, ESPN, Google, Samsung, Smirnoff, Starbucks, and Target.

When the Los Angeles staff, now numbering approximately 400, outgrew the company’s office on the Westside, 72andSunny leased 70,000 square feet in two buildings in Playa Vista, also known as Silicon Beach due to an influx of media and technology companies. The buildings—part of the Hercules Campus, a development comprising 11 historic buildings that once housed the headquarters of Howard Hughes’s aircraft company—had sat empty for decades.

John Boiler, CEO and co-founder of 72andSunny, wanted the new office to embrace the way the company works: It creates cultural impact on behalf of brands while maintaining an optimistic outlook and an intensely collaborative approach. He knew that his neighbor, Lean Arch, Inc., Principal James Meyer, who had led the renovation of Boiler’s personal residence, was the right architect to make that happen.

“We worked with Lean Arch to create a functional aesthetic that supported our culture and unique ways of working,” Boiler says. “We wanted to honor the history of the space while making it new—going for timeless, modern functionality.” Boiler and Meyer closely curated the furnishings, fixtures, and finishes throughout, mixing both new and vintage pieces to complement the distinct character of each building.

Motherboards to surfboards
Built around 1950, the Bauhaus-style main building has a two-story, steel-truss structure infilled with glass. Meyer collaborated with the engineer to weave electrical and mechanical systems through the trusses, as he describes, “like circuits through a motherboard.” This cross section of information and technology, as well as the contrast with the Hughes era, guided many of the design decisions.

“John wanted to be able to stand at one end of the main building and see all the way through to the other side,” Meyer says. To preserve views, distinctive program features, such as a coffee bar and pantry wrapped by a green wall, are isolated within the larger volume of the space. An open Brazilian-teak stair inserted into a large hole cut into the second floor spans the coffee bar, defining a gathering area on the ground floor.

Open workspaces with custom benching desks predominate, save for a few enclosed rooms on the second floor. One of these, a glass box wrapped with teak slats, is shared by the three partners, who work side by side at a long table made from maple boards reclaimed from the Pauley Pavilion basketball court at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

Down the hall is “mahogany row,” the only interior element remaining from Hughes’s time: a row of mahogany-paneled offices, including the tycoon’s own. With restored paneling, they now serve as meeting rooms named for surfing destinations in a nod to the company’s surfing culture. “We didn’t want surfboards on the wall and a tiki bar,” Meyer says, explaining the subtle references throughout, such as a conference table with a shape that only hints at that of a surfboard. “We took a sophisticated approach that could be slightly tongue-in-cheek but detailed in a way to make surfing a backdrop to people working.”

Where the cool kids hang out
The second building, built during World War II, is a two-story structure with wood bow trusses, and it once housed engineers working on Hughes’s H-4 Hercules seaplane, known as the “Spruce Goose.” Beneath an added skylight, the focal point now is a bleacher structure large enough to host most staff and also clad in wood from UCLA’s basketball court. A bank of lockers lines an adjacent hallway, and tucked beneath the bleachers are acoustically isolated edit bays. “The concept was, Where do all the cool kids hang out at a football game?” Meyer asks. “Under the bleachers.”

Another touchstone to the past is Hughes’s concrete document vault, now a conference room enclosed by glass walls with flat-screen TVs floating in front of the restored original millwork. Hughes once sifted through drawings of his visionary aircrafts here, and one can’t help but imagine that the noted maverick would approve of 72andSunny’s innovative culture and the new life infused into these long-empty spaces.

Architect: Lean Arch, Inc.
Client: 72andSunny
Where: Los Angeles
What: 70,000 total square feet in two two-story buildings
Cost/sf: Withheld at client’s request

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