As California’s tech industry continues to migrate south to Los Angeles, its epicenter has become Playa Vista, where Google, Facebook, YouTube, Yahoo, Konami, Belkin, and others have established offices in the past few years.
While the redevelopment of Howard Hughes’ historic Hercules Campus— overseen by Brenda Levin and filled in by several talented teams—is a model of adaptive reuse, much of the new architecture in this former marshland has been formulaic or worse. But two new creative office projects at the east end of Playa Vista, developed by Tishman Speyer and designed by Shimoda Design Group and Michael Maltzan Architecture, are taking Playa Vista—and perhaps Southern California tech architecture in general—to a new level.
Shimoda’s project, The Collective, includes five two-story buildings, connected by grass-lined walkways and divided into two parcels. Structures consist of pre-cast concrete and wood framing, and are clad with rolled metal paneling and glass curtain walls. Sarnafil-clad roofs angle quite sharply, continuing along what Joey Shimoda, the chief creative officer of his eponymous firm, calls “a rolling wave.” Tall floor heights range from 15 to 21 feet, while holes punched between levels and open floor plans make the interior seem even larger. Rows of Solatube skylights keep the spaces from requiring much artificial light.
Shimoda said his designs—which feature huge shard-like exposed concrete frames and shining strips of metal—were inspired by Hughes’ airplanes and hangars in both their immense scale and jutting shapes. Another inspiration, said Shimoda, was the movement of the nearby ocean, which pervades the area’s culture. “It was about trying to get a different point of view, a newer interpretation of interior space,” said Shimoda, gazing out one of the large windows over the Playa Vista development. “They don’t want it to feel corporate at all,” he said.
This sense of raw, generous space has basically become the developer’s definition of the creative office. Brochures for the typology now tout light, volume, space, expression of architecture, and an outdoor-indoor connection. Much of it is designed to not only lure talent, but to also convince employees to interact more and work longer hours in an informal atmosphere.
Maltzan’s project, which consists of a large, raised boomerang-shaped building and a smaller stacked cube (adjacent to a park that Maltzan and the new project’s landscape designer, the Office of James Burnett, designed a few years ago) are also geared toward creative tenants in both tech and entertainment. But its office plans are more eclectic, including open plans, traditional plans, and hybrids of the two.
Lifted on stilts and connected by bridges, the white brick boomerang building, which his firm has nicknamed the “wishbone,” wraps around its lot, weaving up and down along its length. In many ways it maintains the attributes of an old mill building, said Maltzan.
“If you take the fundamental qualities of those spaces—big open floor plates, tall ceilings, real access to light and views—they are very useful in any kind of space where you have a culture of making things,” said Maltzan. In some places the building’s oversized windows will appear to overwhelm its opaque surfaces.
The cube-shaped building, adjacent to Maltzan’s park, is designed to define space at the head of the recreational outlet, and to provide views of the landscape. The buildings’ stark differences will give potential tenants—both buildings are spec—the maximum variety of choices. And Burnett’s landscape for the new project will draw on some of the formal geometries of the park, bringing, for instance, sloped berms down to the parking lot, and connecting to the site’s open spaces.
“Tishman Speyer has really made a commitment to a very high, ambitious level of architecture. They’re very open to trying to make new forms for creative offices,” said Maltzan.