Tech companies from Silicon Valley are invading Los Angeles. Big ones. And because most are heading for the city’s western coastline, the area has a new nickname: Silicon Beach.
YouTube recently joined The Hercules Campus as an occupant of building 17, hiring HLW to design the interior of an extension for its YouTube Next Lab facility. The main floor is focused on production studios, and the second level is being designed for open, creative office space. For fun, YouTube placed a refurbished helicopter out front and installed a working fire pole that extends through all levels. Advertising firm 72andSunny also relocated its U.S. headquarters to the Hercules Campus (from Culver City) and hired local firm LeanArch for its build-out and renovation.
The 1940s Hughes buildings express the cachet that tech firms covet: buildings with “good bones” drenched in history and character. But such structures are hard to come by these days, especially with the large floor plates tech firms need. Consequently, one “traditional” office space owner is redesigning its property into creative space. Practically next door to The Hercules Campus at Playa Vista is Latitude 34, developed by Lincoln Property Company. These two buildings have remained empty since opening in 2009. So Lincoln Property Company has hired Gensler to reconfigure them and two adjacent buildings into more tech-attractive spaces.
“We are approaching the office building of the future in a completely different way today,” said Gensler principal Michael White. “We’re renovating, repositioning, and frankly ‘hacking’ existing buildings that were designed under the old paradigm, in order for them to satisfy the demands of the new creative workplace.”
White designed the Animation Campus for video gaming company Electronic Arts (also in Playa Vista), and worked recently with Activision Blizzard on its headquarters, as well as with IMAX and Red Bull, all in Santa Monica. The firm is also undertaking significant office improvements at Playa Jefferson, a conglomeration of creative offices in Mar Vista that includes a thorough revamping of public spaces. For the Latitude 34 makeover, White and his team created individual entryways and addresses for businesses, instead of the current design, which funnels all tenants through a single common public lobby.
“Tenants want the individualized, branded feeling, where they can hang their sign over the door,” said White. They also want architects “to break down the size of the facade to make it feel like separate row houses.”
Gensler will also punch through levels to create two connecting floors; a common practice in new tech offices. Connections between the tenant suite and the exterior landscaping will be added at all levels, and outdoor spaces will become more individualized.
“Instead of one long linear park, it should be six or seven pocket parks that are each unique,” said White. “One area is for checking email outdoors. Another is a community spot with an amphitheater. Instead of concrete, the materials will be loose, organic, and natural, with woods and fabric canopies and trellises.”
If Playa Vista and the rest of Silicon Beach take off, look for other markets to follow suit. Recently, the city of El Segundo launched its own “incubator district,” Smoky Hollow, to attract tech and creative tenants to the old warehouses and bow-truss buildings near LAX.