With their recent designs for the Los Angeles offices of international media company Hungry Man Productions, architects FreelandBuck explored the decorative potential of the average office cubicle with whimsy and explosive exuberance.
The New York City– and Los Angeles–based architects renovated the interior of an existing 8,000-square-foot warehouse structure in L.A., upending the traditional office layout and utilizing abstracted decorative molding profiles as cladding for cubicle walls. The effort was fueled by an adventurous client that wanted a “dynamic and lighthearted working environment.” That desire resulted in a quizzical collection of stacked cubicles—each one turned askew—organized around a collection of shared open spaces.
David Freeland, principal at FreelandBuck, explained that the firm set out to deconstruct the prototypical office and to “engage office culture in a way that makes it not mundane or rudimentary.”A model of the office reveals that the seemingly chaotic arrangement of cubes divides the office without making it impossible to navigate. (Courtesy Eric Staudenmaier)
In plan, it looks rather chaotic, a byproduct of the firm’s playful massing approach that conceals a finely tuned organizational scheme designed to facilitate the musical chairs–style teamwork approach Hungry Man promotes. The offices are used for everything from client meetings to production projects and even casting calls and photo shoots, circumstances that require the spaces to function as a casual backdrop and formal business environment all at once. As a response, the plan is broken up into several zones: a clustered private office pod near the entrance, a dining and meeting core in a far corner, and an open-office work area in another, capped by a mezzanine filled with more private offices. After every few steps, the shifting and patterned cubicles create an entirely new and different view, framing recognizable, but ambiguous, glimpses of other office areas. The cubicles stack in certain places to create thresholds, resulting in casual indoor rooms lit by soft skylights above. They are also meant to be decorative and act as display cases for Hungry Man’s extensive collection of legacy props.
The cubicles are wrapped in MDF cladding produced by a line-based CNC mill and fabricated locally to create a “fantastically inexpensive” finishing material that, for the architects, approximates the “roundness and supple depth” of a line drawing.
“We wanted to make a playful connection to the office cube as a fundamental unit of typical office space,” Freeland explained. “Part of breaking loose from the conventional associations of ‘office cubicle’ was to use it for different purposes and organize it in different ways.”