Beats by Dre
Barbara Bestor is a Los Angeles architect with a deep affinity for popular culture, and she has been designing workplaces for Beats Electronics for the past four years as its staff grew from 16 to 600. Just before Apple acquired this high-tech audio company—best known for its line of headphones, marketed under the brand Beats by Dre—it consolidated its operations in a pair of warehouses in Culver City. Bestor and her team remodeled two floors within the larger of the two warehouses—on a tight budget and even tighter schedule—to create a sophisticated, urbane workplace for the culturally adept company. And a second phase for the rest of the company is nearing completion in the 105,000-total-square-foot project.
“Beats was built at the crossroads of culture and technology,” says Beats Electronics President Luke Wood. “When thinking about the perfect office, we focused on reflecting our core ideals as a design-driven company that creates culture but is built on a platform of great technology. We wanted an office that brought our ideals to life and matched the pace, power, and energy of contemporary culture with the simplicity and elegance found in great modern design.”
Taking cues from campus design, not Silicon Valley
From concept to completion, the transformation was accomplished in 12 months. The exterior facades were enlivened with painted black chevrons, and the two buildings were connected with landscaping and decks adjacent to a creek. In the main building, Bestor retained the existing structural columns and added beams for seismic bracing. She removed existing walls, and added new walls to conceal the columns, often within chamfered window frames that add depth and drama. Bestor and her team called for the existing second floor to be cut away to create a broad, skylit concourse—serving as a main street where the entire staff can assemble for meetings or events—extending back from the reception area. To either side is an atrium, with natural light reaching into the meeting rooms that surround it. Workstations are arranged around the office perimeter.
“We steered clear of the’fun and games’ aesthetic of Silicon Valley,” Bestor says. “Our model was that of a bustling, urban college campus. We wanted to provide moments of respite, energy, and communality, but not to dominate the work environment.” Bestor created a haven for introverts and extroverts alike. People work long hours at their desks and in a variety of shared spaces, indoors and out, such as a coffee bar on the concourse, open spaces lined with whiteboards for presentations, and atria filled with a mix of chairs for impromptu meetings.
Materials and colors add layers of interest
Bestor pushed for wood floors to add a sense of warmth, and was able to implement engineered Douglas fir in the public zones, alternating with black and white striped encaustic tiles, raw concrete, and sound-absorbing carpet in the work areas. “Circulation is straightforward, but a rich diversity of vistas and finishes add layers of interest to the interior,” she says. Color is boldly used: Quadrants are painted blue, green, red, and gold, and a scarlet passage leads to a deep blue atrium. Geometric wall patterns alternate with photo murals of L.A. from the air, commissioned from Dutch photographer Iwan Baan. Fluorescent tubes are suspended within brass hexagons. Stained wood chairs and tables by young designers from the Danish firms Hay and Muuto furnish the public areas. In contrast to this cool, modern decor are two libraries that are defiantly retro, with columned wood bookcases and brass table lamps.
Stairs lined with a reflective brass laminate lead up to balconies overlooking the concourse and atria and an open meeting area. Glass-enclosed offices for Dr. Dre, Jimmy Iovine, and Luke Wood, the co-founders of Beats, have sandblasted, black-stained oak floors and are custom furnished to match the taste of their occupants.
The second building interior, which is nearing completion, will incorporate a restaurant, gym, as well as a mixing studio and areas for product development. “Beats represents a new path for the music business, turning its energy into new technology and product innovation,” Bestor says. “That allowed us, as architects, to be slightly transgressive. It’s a heterogeneous group of people, and we wanted the company’s growth, optimism, and sense of excitement to be reflected in the environments.”
Beats by Dre
- Architect: Bestor Architecture
- Client: Beats Electronics
- Where: Culver City, California
- What: 105,000 total square feet on two floors
- Cost/sf: Withheld at client’s request