21st century design workspace created from San Franciso warehouse

Friday 23 Nov 2012

Limited budget used for maximum effect with minimalist design

The project is a studio for an industrial design firm. When starting their business the clients moved into an old brick-and-timber warehouse in San Francisco’s Mission District. Their success led to rapid growth. When the opportunity to expand into adjacent space arose, the three principals saw the chance to create a 21st century workspace that represented the culture of their collaborative studio, their design values and the firm’s increasing global prominence.

During its 100 years, the building has been adapted to accommodate several emerging economies. Originally constructed as an early 20st century industrial space, it later became a shell for internet start-up workers housed in an array of cheap cubicles.  Its current incarnation, as a well-crafted workspace for the new service-based economy, represents the next evolution of workspace design.

At 6,500 sq ft, the new space nearly doubles the size of the original studio, yet the design maintains enough intimacy to support fluid working relationships among the staff. The open plan takes advantage of tall windows to the south and east, setting more discreet uses-prototyping shop, lounge, "war rooms," kitchen and bathrooms-along interior walls. The war rooms can be temporarily occupied by design teams and concealed by curtains when needed to preserve confidentiality.  The walnut and laminated glass-clad conference room at the centre is a warm and glowing core around which the workspace radiates. The studio also serves as a gallery to display finished products alongside work in progress. 

The design is an architectural portrait of the client: the integration of formal precision, innovative program interpretation and functional performance articulates their design identity and process.  In the words of the partners"It really captures our sensibility - clean, elemental, but with an underlying energy. . .there are always multiple ways of getting where you need to go, a reflection of our non-linear design process."

A rigorous design language is established within the variable conditions of the old building. Both the idealized new construction and eccentric older shell retain their individual identities while engaged in a vibrant dialogue. The minimalist vocabulary of the new architecture enhances the character of the older building and provides a range of visual and tactile experiences through essays on translucency, transparency, materiality, mass, texture, colour and light. The neutral palette is punctuated by hot pink surfaces on the walls, floor and furniture which enliven the perception of depth. Walnut veneer and hardwood, used in both the architectural panelling and furniture, adds warmth, naturally bridging the perfect and imperfect worlds of new and old.

The final design represents a judicious use of a limited budget for maximum effect. Customized and finely crafted details blend with off-the-shelf materials within a coherent architectural expression in order to realize the project at a construction cost of less than $90/sf (including furniture, fixtures, & equipment).

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