Gensler Oakland

Materials capture the distinct flavor of Oakland and reference its industrial past. The reception desk is made with blackened steel plates and salvaged wood from a local oak tree. Photography by Jasper Sanidad

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From the Gensler office in Oakland, California, on the top floor of a 20-story building, visitors take in an impressive panorama of the city, as well as San Francisco across the bay. While the firm was originally founded and continues to be headquartered in San Francisco, its East Bay home recently relocated from suburban San Ramon in anticipation of opportunities in Oakland, which is rapidly revitalizing.

“The program was to build an office that aligns the culture of Oakland with Gensler’s brand— creating an inspiring, flexible space for design professionals,” says Chris Wendel, senior associate at Gensler, who led the design of the 24,000-squarefoot single floor for 120 staff. This move marks significant growth for the East Bay group, which had only 30 employees within 8,000 square feet in San Ramon.

Prompted by the startup culture of the Bay Area, Gensler’s Oakland office features much more than the typical open floor plan. Its largest conference room, at 400 square feet, has retractable glass walls on two sides, allowing it to accommodate 200 people seated or 300 standing. In another area, a custom system is devised of tackboards that swing out to partition off project spaces. On the back side of the library wall, more tackboards can become room dividers, creating temporary areas where staff can work on specific projects. Groups of sit-stand desks are arrayed near the windows to take advantage of natural light, while small conference rooms and huddle rooms are positioned in the center.

“If we were to redesign this space, we’d tighten up the desks and create more flexible communal spaces and more huddle rooms,” Wendel says. Large storage units fabricated by MASH Studios, which hold material samples and reference books, are on casters and can be easily moved. For the finishes, the design team wanted to underscore the city’s industrial roots through the use of “simple, honest materials,” Wendel says.

The signature element is a 40-foot-long library wall made of cold-rolled steel, complete with a ladder. The handsome reception desk is composed of wood from a salvaged local oak tree, and the meeting rooms are lined in plywood that is patterned with imagery, such as a detail from a lighting fixture. A wall of staff photographs, which is a standard element in many Gensler offices, is ornamented with industrial pulleys.

“Oakland has a distinct flavor and aesthetic, and it’s a more relaxed environment,” Wendel says. “We actively sought to create that in this office.”

who Architect/ interior designer: Gensler. Project team: Janice Cavaliere; Fabiola Hernandez; Sergio Mondragon; Anulak Siwabut; Denisa Trenkle; Chris Wendel; Doug Wittnebel; Eva Wu; Matin Zargari. Contractor: Turner Construction. Lighting: Associated Lighting Representative (ALR). Engineering: Integral Group. Graphics: Martinelli Graphics.
what Paint: IdeaPaint. Movable walls: PK-30 System. Carpet/ carpet tile: Tandus/Centiva. Ceilings: Armstrong Ceiling; Acutherm. Interior lighting: Fluxwerx; Lutron; Zumtobel Group. Window treatments: Knoll Textiles. Workstations: MASH Studios. Workstation/ task seating: MASH Studios; Knoll. Cafeteria/dining seating: Herman Miller. Other seating: Herman Miller; Knoll. Reception desk: Design Workshops. Side tables: Herman Miller. Other tables: Herman Miller. Shelving: Glazier Steel. Architectural/ custom woodworking: Design Workshops; Martinelli Graphics.

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