Goodby Silverstein

Goodby Silverstein

Concept

Evolution of Office Design

Spatial patterns in the workplace can promote vital collaboration and interaction. Based on this thinking (along with some simple economics), the open office floor plan has superseded the long tradition of hierarchical space (corner office, formal conference rooms). At Jensen, a decade designing within the open office typology has prompted new focus on spatial nuance of workplace design: places of “prospect and refuge” that afford a balance of collaboration and privacy, group interaction and focused undisturbed thinking.

These diagrams summarize this evolution. Perimeter closed-offices with light and views (1) become open workstations around the perimeter (2). Later, an approach common in many of Jensen’s projects, distributes shared meeting spaces to divide the open office into “neighborhoods” (3). Today, technology and mobile devices allow work to happen everywhere, inside and outside of the office, creating both challenges and opportunities for the physical office (4). The new offices for Goodby Silverstein and Partners reflects this new condition and Jensen’s current thinking about a nuanced workplace.

Playtime, Jacques Tati, 1967. VHS.
Johnson Wax Headquarters, Frank Lloyd Wright. 1939.

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Concept

Our Workplace

Jensen’s own office is a living experiment testing ideas and points-of-view about workplace design. The central city location inside an older Market Street building demonstrates that sustainable design is not a new topic. The narrow floor plate with windows on opposing sides allows natural ventilation and day-lighting, features often missing from more recent office buildings with sealed windows and larger floor sizes. Existing partitions were selectively removed to have a mostly open office studio but enough walls remain to allow privacy, retreat for undisturbed concentration, and of course ample space for display and exchange of ideas. Workstations are of Jensen’s own design: simple utilitarian workbenches that are durable, flexible, and re-configurable. At the heart of the office is an open kitchen with a large communal table, the site of design collaboration, presentations, shared lunches, and happy hours. And perhaps the most sustainable feature: the office is directly above 45 public transit routes.

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Concept

Analogous Spaces

An office environment, therefore, might be like a library, a theater, a nightclub, a café, or even a home. In adaptive re-use projects one can witness the ability of buildings with strong spatial or material character to adapt themselves to a wide variety of uses. Rather than “form follows function”, one can think about form that doesn’t preclude function, that is spaces that can be used and interpreted in diverse ways. These are spaces that inspire creative occupancy.

 

 

 

   

KBP Offices, Jensen
Mekanism Offices, Jensen
GSP Concept Sketches

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Program

Programming

There is a component of workplace programming that is simple number crunching: gather data, interview users, establish space needs, sort out adjacencies, block and stack, and test fit. This quantitative aspect of programming and space planning is a crucial first step in the design process. But a thoughtful design process goes beyond simply taking this data, extruding it vertically, and applying color (or with a more generous budget, finishing with the latest preferred material).

There is a qualitative aspect to programming that can be pursued concurrently with the numbers (not after the fact). This qualitative research and exploration involves conversations about vision, comparing notes on references, sketching spatial organization approaches, discussing favorite movies, or imagining how a space might transcend the inevitably outdated growth projection data or fashionable material. Ideally the data collection and spatial-material exploration are parallel, collaborative efforts in which iterative drawing is the core tool.

 

 

 

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Program

Facetime

Collaborative spaces can be the core design features of workplace projects: bleacher or stadium seating, shared kitchens, community tables, bar seating, lounges, video conferencing pods, booths, and other imageable, shared spaces. These are the areas where important work happens in the creative office and they offer opportunities for expressive design features.

The conventional office is usually made up of open workstations and closed conference rooms. Each serves a purpose but, increasingly, it is the spaces in between where ideas are exchanged and real work gets done. Offices not thoughtfully designed can be deterrents to both creative collaborative work and individual deep uninterrupted thinking. The open office is too noisy, the conference room too formal. The spaces in between become the critical incubators of ideas.

Eleven Offices, Jensen
IDEO Offices, Jensen
Eleven Offices, Jensen
IDEO Offices, Jensen
Turner Duckworth Offices, Jensen

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Program

Landmarks

With the inevitable accumulation of personal “stuff”, walking into a contemporary open plan office can be like entering an undifferentiated sea of flotsam and jetsam, lacking clear way-finding or orientation devices or legible differentiation between teams or even floor levels.

Iconic or unifying elements can characterize and organize the office environment.  Strong forms such as closed meeting rooms can serve as landmarks. Expressive structure, whether in an existing building or a newly inserted feature can help orientation. A double-height space or an interconnecting stair can act as a landmark, offering identity and orientation and activating visual connections between levels. Even framed exterior views can serve as memorable moments of situation and place making.

 

 

San Gimignano, Italy
View of Coit Tower from GSP
View of Transamerica Pyramid Center from GSP
Nexon Offices, Jensen

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Context

Precast Concrete Façade

The project site is 650 California, also know as the Hartford Building, a 34-story tower designed by SOM and completed in 1964. It is a fine example amongst several towers in San Francisco with precast concrete facades, many of them, unfortunately, now being replaced by common glass skins.

The precast panels offer elegant relief and shadow to the tower’s silhouette while framing views from the interior. The intervention for GS&P is composed of a series of perimeter rooms that respond to the sculptural precast panels and the city views they frame. Since the office occupies an entire floor plate, each unique room puts the viewer in a different relationship to the city outside, from intimate lounges to bleacher seating with a vertiginous view to the street 30 stories below.

"Hartford Plaza." Architectural Record. May 1967. Print.

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Context

Class A | Class B | Class C

For purposes of real estate comparison, office space is grouped into different classes representing a subjective ranking of quality. Class A, for example, represents the most prestigious buildings competing for premier tenants with high finish levels (and generally higher rents). 

Increasingly clients are seeking out space in lower categories not because they are cheaper but because they prefer less refined finishes and the creative vibe of rougher space (e.g., the brick and timber warehouse). And as these spaces become desirable and harder to find, clients are asking to effectively make Class A space look and feel more like Class B or C! This can be a very satisfying exercise: revealing long-hidden structures of buildings, exposing concrete floors, and removing dropped ceilings. With the peeling-back of layers often comes taller ceilings, expansive views, and material character that sparks the imagination.

"Hartford Plaza." Architectural Record. May 1967. Print.
GSP Site before construction.

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Structure

Light Gauge Metal Framing

Although not as dramatic as a heroic steel bridge or as evocative as an articulated wood truss, light gauge metal framing systems (“metal studs”) are the true structural miracle-workers of contemporary office construction. With their use, almost any form can be built and, if thoughtfully applied, they even offer the potential for expressive structural investigation.

Unlike traditional wood framing found in most residential construction, light gauge metal framing is perfectly suited for the fast pace of construction typically associated with office tenant improvements. Light gauge metal has the benefit of precise, uniform shapes and sizes with an exceptional strength to weight ratio allowing for simple engineering and construction of office partitions, ceilings, and other constructs. Sustainable benefits include a high content of recycled material in the framing members and easily sortable construction waste. Metal framing is resistant to moisture, mold, and rot providing for better indoor air quality both during and post construction.

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Building Systems

Acoustics

It’s official: the human brain does not multitask well. With distractions, productivity and accuracy plummet drastically. While part of your attention is on writing, another part is following the conversation at the next desk. Recent studies even indicate more sick days and lower job satisfaction in open offices. But the benefits to collaboration and information exchange are also clear, so the challenge becomes how to address the distraction problem. Phone booths, project rooms, and even private offices can offer places to escape. And careful attention to acoustics is also fundamental.

Sound absorption is the key challenge. Contemporary offices are filled with hard reflective surfaces: glass, concrete floors, and exposed ceilings. Carpet with acoustic dropped ceilings, once a commonly used high-performing acoustic duo of opposing absorptive surfaces, today is typically eliminated. So other absorption needs to be strategically added. Acoustic solutions can address this need and add visual interest or material character: deeply contoured foam, felt panels, or at GS&P, a carefully detailed wood slat and acoustic insulation assembly that wraps the entire core of the building.

Acoustic Foam
Anechoic Chamber
IDEO Offices, Jensen
GSP Acoustic Wall Cladding

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Building Systems

Assisted Readymades

Marcel Duchamp selected ordinary mass-produced objects and elevated them to works of art. These manufactured (as opposed to handmade) goods were often repositioned or joined (“assisted”) by the artist to change their meaning and interpretation. 

Jensen often selects simple, utilitarian manufactured objects and re-contextualizes them by incorporation in unexpected ways into projects. In part, this is a reaction to office design that is increasing only visual and stylized; these objects can add humor and ambiguity lacking in stage-set interiors. In another sense, these objects demonstrate an interest in the potential of modern construction techniques and mass production. Although architecture is generally still built one building at a time (hand crafted as a prototype), readymades offer an alternate approach at once joyful and economical.

Pre-fab alternating-tread stair used in many Jensen projects.
"Bicycle Wheel," Marcel Duchamp, 1951.
"Bottle Dryer," Marcel-Duchamp, 1914.
"Fountain," Marcel-Duchamp, 1917.

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Building Systems

Artificial Light

The ideal interior has balanced natural light. Existing buildings can have more or less of it, but careful office space planning can optimize it, bringing any available natural light deeper into an office interior. At the same time, it also is possible to have too much light. New glass office towers often have the blinds permanently drawn to temper glare on computer monitors within.

Inevitably artificial light is required to supplement daylight. The history of architecture is written around the integration of natural light while artificial light is often just an afterthought. And as with natural light, in the contemporary office there is often too much artificial light. Jensen approaches lighting as a facet of the architecture: These integrated schemes use building surfaces as reflectors; are “episodic” (not always uniformly bright); and save energy both by using efficient fixtures as well as being carefully controllable. What should be visible is the effect of the light, not the light fixture itself, unless that fixture has a spatial role to play as a protagonist in the interior.

Lighting design by Johanna Grawunder.

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Materiality

Transparency

Glass is an amorphous solid, not a liquid. The idea that glass flows and becomes thicker at the bottom seems to be an urban legend. Nevertheless, the beauty of glass is that it is at once present and non-present. In the contemporary office environment, this allows for visual connection while maintaining acoustic privacy.

This duality can be pushed one step further by introducing modes of operability into projects: sliding doors, accordion doors, garage doors, and swinging walls are all ways to let rooms and spaces combine in different ways. Rooms designed for one purpose can have limited utility. Space that visually or, through user intervention, physically connects, can have greatly increased use and creative occupancy.

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Materiality

Material Palette

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Sustainability

Adaptive Reuse

A number of Jensen’s workplace projects are located in buildings or structures where professional offices were not the original intended use. From a former petticoat factory (KBP) to a maritime bulkhead structure (IDEO) to a cabaret (Next World), adaptive reuse projects often lead to incredibly creative workplace solutions. And this makes these projects inherently sustainable: they reuse rather than replace existing construction.

These alternative spaces frequently provide unique spatial arrangements such as double-height spaces with open mezzanines and exposed interesting building materials not typically found in interior office environments. In the San Francisco offices of IDEO, the original heavy timber planks of the shipping pier were uncovered under layers of asphalt to provide a durable finish floor. The existing high bay trusses allowed for the efficient integration of modern mechanical and electrical systems and created an expansive open office environment. The lesson is that well-proportioned spaces, durably constructed, that can be adaptably re-used, are meaningfully sustainable.

The History and Transformation of the Port of San Francisco, 1848-2010. Page 25. Web.
"The Crinoline or Hoop Skirt (1860’s)." Mortal Journey. N.p., 30 Mar. 2011. Web
Kaufman, Debra. "Sirens & Sinners: Filmmaking in the Weimar Republic." Sirens & Sinners: Filmmaking in the Weimar Republic. N.p., 9 Oct. 2013. Web.

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Landscape

The Interior Landscape

Living or metaphorical landscapes can enrich workplace design. Bringing the outside in might seem like a uniquely Californian approach. But it also can read as a manifestation of broader themes of transparency in contemporary culture. In a conceptual sense, office planning follows similar principles as urban planning: blocks of workstations, shared streets fronted by the shops of meeting rooms, and collaborative, open civic plazas. The contemporary office has even brought inside some of the city’s functions such as dining and recreation.

As part of these interior landscapes, Jensen has incorporated interior plantings into workplace environments long before the current widespread embrace of biophilic design. At Angry Monkey, a web services company, a two-story-tall plant wall was used as a method of filtering both light and air and from eastern windows. For the offices of KBP West, Jensen incorporated an indoor garden “park” in the design, creating an informal meeting space.

 

"Tables of Natural History," Ephraim Chambers. 1728. Print.
Angry Monkey Offices, Jensen
1748 Map of Rome, Giambattista Nolli
KBP Offices, Jensen

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Collaborations

Client + Designer

It is almost a cliché for an architect to talk about the client as a creative collaborator, but there is an undeniable truth: Jensen’s best and most satisfying work has happened with clients who have a strong point of view. Perhaps not surprisingly, this is especially evident in our workplace designs for creative organizations: graphic designers, industrial and interface designers, advertising agencies, arts organizations, technology companies, and venture capitalists. These clients are ambitious and forward-thinking in their goals yet open to creative approaches to getting there. The GS&P team was a creative partner in their office design. Their enthusiasm and inspiring irreverence were contagious and made for a fun and productive design process.

Images: Courtesy of Goodby Silverstein & Partners.

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Time Lapse

Material Studies

gsp_new2

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Project Data

Project Information

Project Name: Goodby Silverstein & Partners Offices
Project Location: San Francisco, CA 
Owner/Client: Goodby Silverstein & Partners
Type of Business/Use: Offices 
Date of Completion: March 2013 

Design Team and Credit Information 

Architect: Jensen Architects 
Mark Jensen, Scott Davis, Dear Orr (project leads)
Ricardo Gonzalez, Lauren Takeda, Emily Gosack (project team)
Mechanical Engineer: A.G.E. Consulting Inc.
Lighting Design: Johanna Grawunder
Specifications: Top Flight Specs
Photographer: Mariko Reed 

Construction Data 

Contractor: GCI General Contractors
Suppliers: Brothers of Industry (workstations, conference tables)
Tamalpais Commerical Cabinetry (wood slat acoustic wall, built-in casework)
Subway Ceramics (domed hex subway tile)
Interface Flor (carpet tile)
Wilson Partitions (interior aluminum storefront)
La Cantina (folding door system)
Flos, Finelite, Lightwild, Juno, Resolute (light fixtures)
Hunter Douglas (translucent acoustic fabric ceiling system)

Major Materials: Aluminum storefront systems; Wood slat acoustic walls; Acoustic fabric ceiling systems; Sealed concrete floors

Size/Floor Area: 26,000 sq.ft.

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