Just two years ago, Los Angeles–based Clive Wilkinson Architects (CWa) designed the New York workplace for the rapidly expanding information and expertise specialist Gerson Lehrman Group (GLG). And that design informed the sequel in a very different context: GLG’s Austin, Texas, office. The goal in Texas was to maintain the New York space’s eye-catching identity and freeing openness, while giving the office a decidedly Austin feel. Yes, New York and Texas would find common ground.
“We’ve developed an expertise in creating collaborative and creative business environments,” says CWa Associate Principal Chester Nielsen. “That’s GLG’s business model. All they do is knowledge sharing and collaboration. It’s kind of a dream client.” For this dream client, Nielsen and Wilkinson created a unique, energy-fueled place that not only enhances the GLG brand but fosters collaboration, innovation, and, most of all, employee happiness. “It’s a place where people feel excited about coming to work everyday,” says Richard Socarides, GLG’s head of public affairs, who was intimately involved in the design process with Wilkinson’s team.
Custom elements reference vernacular
The 450 GLG Austin employees, formerly housed on one lower floor of a 30-year-old Downtown Austin office building on Congress Avenue, moved into the new workspace by CWa that is located on the fifteenth and sixteenth floors within the same building. Totaling 42,000 square feet, the office has commanding views of the thriving downtown area.
In the new space, CWa cut a rectangular slab from the upper floor to create a new atrium space that is connected by an open staircase, producing a central focal point that exudes both sophistication and local charm. White expanded metal mesh guardrails and ceilings, custom fabricated by local firm Sarabi Studio, recall local industrial vernacular, help pull light to the lower level, and provide a visual connection between floors. An oak platform at the stair’s base creates a warm, well-situated seating and presentation space. Other bespoke and regionally sourced elements include the timber barista bar by Austin-based firm Hewn, custom milled wood tables, and raw materials like concrete, steel, and brass. “There’s a real culture of making in Texas, and lots of access to local craftsmen,” says Nielsen. “It’s something you could never really do in New York.”
Nielsen and Wilkinson designed an activity-based working environment with neither corner offices nor assigned cubicles. Divided simply into “neighborhoods” of 65 to 100 employees each, the floors are filled with varied seating arrangements, allowing for every possible work style and need. These range from custom sit-stand desks to colorful, two-tone meeting rooms clad in colored glass fabricated by Pulp Studio. Informal seating areas, like those in the coffee bar and pantry spaces near the building’s core, allow for various work conversations. The furniture selection is an eclectic mix of simplicity and ruggedness, with colorful modern desk chairs, bar seats, cushioned benches and loungers, as well as custom-made steel-and-leather bar stools.
A lab for innovation
Now, GLG workers are on the move more often, and people who once never saw each other are constantly interacting. But, that is coupled with a somewhat surprising new challenge: Finding colleagues is difficult because they rarely stay in one place. “[The new office] works spectacularly well for us as far as promoting collaboration across disciplines,” says Socarides.
Atop the atrium, a field of hanging LED lights reference industrial and agriculture architecture. Each LED can be controlled digitally, and their long shelf life allows them to be placed in hard-to-reach areas. Dome lights in the pantry areas add a modern touch. Like most CWa projects, ceiling heights are maximized in this interior by leaving the ceiling structure, ducts, and electrical systems exposed.
Besides operating as a lab for innovation, the interior also serves as an excellent advertisement for GLG itself. Bold graphics, on the far side of the pantry spaces, proclaim the GLG name along with the mission statement. “We try to do all our meetings with clients in our office,” says Socarides. “We can say more about our brand with the space than we ever could with words. When people come here, there’s this ‘wow’ effect—a sense that there’s something cool and something spectacular happening here.”
who Architect and interior designer: Clive Wilkinson Architects. Project team: Chester Nielsen; Clive Wilkinson; Miya Hongo; Caroline Morris; Ying Song. Contractor: Harvey Cleary Builders Executive architect: STG Design Project management: Aquila Commercial. Lighting: Lighting Workshop. Structural engineer: Campbell & Associates. MEP engineer: MEJ & Associates. Graphics: EGG, Los Angeles. Acoustician: JEAcoustics. Expanded metal mesh fabricator: Sarabi Studio.
what Paint: Benjamin Moore. Laminate: Nevamar; Wilsonart. Hard flooring: Hardwood Designs. Resilient flooring: Nora Systems; Key Resin Company. Carpet/carpet tile: Interface; Bentley; Mohawk. Ceilings: custom expanded metal mesh system fabricated by Sarabi Studio; Newmat; Armstrong. Recessed lighting: Cooper; Atlantic Lighting. Track lighting: Lazer and Ketra. Task lighting/ fluorescent/industrial: Cooper. Pendants/chandeliers: Lukas; Tech Lighting; Ketra. Other decorative: Dals. Hardware: Rockwood. Doors: Raco; Innovations. Architectural glass/glazing: Pulp Studio. Window treatments: Draper. Workstations: Dtank custom workstations; Vitra. Workstation/task seating: Haworth. Conference seating: Vitra. Lounge/reception seating: Bernhardt; Vitra; Muuto. Cafeteria/dining seating: Vitra; custom Dtank banquettes. Other seating: Quinze; Milan. Upholstery: Maharam. Conference tables: Vitra. Cafeteria/dining: custom Dtank. Reception desk: custom CWa design, fabrication by Hewn. Side tables: Vitra; Arflex. Other tables: Andreu World. Files: Bisley; Haworth. Lockers/ cubbies: Bisley. Architectural/ custom woodworking: Dtank; Hewn; Georgetown Woodworks. Signage: Austin Architectural Graphics. Plumbing fixtures/ fittings: Kohler; Elkay.