Outside the Box pix
HLW's script for HBO's offices in Los Angeles is far from conventional
Edie Cohen -- Interior Design, 2/1/2005 12:00:00 AM
For HBO's new offices on two floors of a five-story Los Angeles building, HLW placed reception under a skylit double-height atrium. A bridge of glass and steel connects the two sides of the top floor.
An 18 1/2-foot-long leather-covered banquette defines the north wall of reception. A span of double-layered crackled glass is the backdrop to the custom reception desk of COR, an engineered wood product.
A ticker tape greets visitors in the terrazzo-floored elevator lobby. The logo wall is Jerusalem stone.
Chairs by Hans Wegner and sofas, all covered in leather, are arranged along reception's perimeter.
Ingo Maurer's 4-foot-diameter XXL Dome illuminates Arne Jacobsen Swan chairs and a custom table of cast resin, stainless steel, and plastic laminate. The monitors show previews of HBO productions.
The informal staff lounges are also light shafts within the building's long floor plates. Skylights are above; cutout ceilings on the lower level allow light penetration. The curved screen is walnut.
The screening room seats 31. The chairs are covered in mohair, the wall panels in Trevira.
In the linoleum-floored lunchroom, staff sit in Harry Bertoia chairs at Jorge Pensi tables. The plastic-laminate counter overlooks the reception area through the walnut screen.
It's not corporate, it's HBO. To the cable giant's chairman and CEO Chris Albrecht, the company defies categorization and so should its new Los Angeles offices. That's what he envisioned when HBO moved from a Century City high-rise to a five-story Santa Monica low-rise and signed on HLW to handle the design. "My goal was to find a two-story space with large floor plates that felt like one office," Albrecht says. He did, in a site totaling 110,000 square feet on the building's fourth and fifth floors.
But how was HLW going to create a fitting representation of the company behind such pioneering hits as Six Feet Under and Sex in the City? For starters, managing partner Michael White says, reception had to "blow people away." Next, the workplace for 200 needed an ordering device and spaces for interaction as well as conference, lunch, and screening rooms. On the intangible side, light and connectivity were to share top billing with the marquee-worthy public space.
HLW didn't wait until reception for the "wow" factor. It starts at the elevator lobby, a gleaming tunnel of white artisan plaster, terrazzo flooring, and creamy Jerusalem stone incised with the HBO logo. The passageway ends at a vertical LED ticker tape that punches through both floors.
The reception area is brilliant, literally and figuratively. HLW excised the center of the upper floor plate to create a 20-foot-high atrium, and capped it with a skylight. When guests retain their shades upon entering the 1,600-square-foot, terrazzo-floored volume, it's an act of practicality, not pretension.
Straight on is a two-story span of double-layered crackled glass. It not only filters daylight into the workspace behind it, but also acts as a vitreous canvas for HBO's sandblasted logo. The backdrop almost dwarfs the reception desk, itself a massive 35-foot-long grid of rotated COR, an engineered wood product.
Another super-size piece is the 18 1/2-foot-long arcing banquette in black and white leather. Built into the area's north wall, which supports the 'overhanging conference room upstairs, it is part of a plan to accommodate groups for screenings or casting calls. "Seating is at the edges, not like in a hotel lobby," White explains. Accordingly, a pair of sofas covered in aqua leather stand along a walnut screen on the west wall; two Hans Wegner Ox chairs, upholstered in yellow leather, oppose them.
There is one central seating group, though, and it's part of HLW's scheme to spotlight HBO's productions. Surrounding a custom circular resin-topped table are five Arne Jacobsen Swan chairs covered in fuchsia wool; the same color is picked up in the painted interior of Ingo Maurer's XXL Dome hanging above. The table is equipped with five touch-screen computer monitors, so waiting visitors can check out HBO's lineup.
Over the built-in banquette hangs another product placement. An interchangeable steel-framed fabric scrim is imprinted with the latest in HBO's development. One month it's the series Entourage, the next, the film The Life and Death of Peter Sellers. Overhead, too, is a 34-foot-long bridge. Built of steel with clear-glass balustrades, it's a dramatic connector between the two sides of the atrium.
The workplace, split equally between the two floors, begins in the corridor running behind reception, where a run of 5-foot-square concrete blocks is inscribed with the initials, doodles, and handprints of HBO and HLW staff—à la the forecourt at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.
Approximately half the staff works in closed offices set off by sliding doors of walnut and translucent glass. The rest sit at custom workstations of walnut and resin. Station details such as raffia front panels, sheer polyester side draperies, and cherrywood table lamps suggest residential roots. Canopies covered in cotton control acoustics.
Three sets of two stacked, circular volumes—running along the office's spine—each house a pantry and lounge for staff downtime. The fifth-floor lunchroom, with its flat-screen 'TV, plastic-laminate counter, and Harry Bertoia side chairs, feels closer to a college student center than a corporate commissary. In fact, HBO's youthful crew has appropriated it as their own meeting-development room.
Formal meetings occur in the main conference room, also on the fifth floor. The custom table accommodates up to 20. Assistants sit on a wall-length banquette covered in striped velvet and golden-yellow Ultrasuede. Above the room's custom console, a window looks through the fabric scrim that hangs in reception.
More looking goes on in the nearby screening room. A cozy enclave that seats 31 in chairs covered in steel-gray mohair, the room has excellent acoustics, thanks to its fabric-covered wall panels. A ceiling painted a deep blue suggests a starlit night sky. Perhaps soon to be viewed there is the office's very own construction. HBO filmed the entire 12-month process. Check your local listings for showtimes.