Red, White, And New
Laura Fisher Kaiser -- Interior Design, 1/1/2008 12:00:00 AM
In the last decade, Hanley Wood has been sold twice; acquired or launched a number of publications, trade shows, and Web sites; and struck a major strategic licensing agreement with Hearst Magazines. The $250 million company's stock in trade is to provide information on real estate and construction, activities that have long taken place in the same office building in Washington, D.C. When the lease was up, executives decided to practice what they preach: remodeling.
Reprogramming 85,000 square feet on the fourth through seventh floors to accommodate new departments and consolidate far-flung operations was one thing, but SKB Architecture and Design partner Nestor Santa-Cruz also had to convince the CEO, Frank Anton, to turn the 7,500-square-foot space on the seventh floor into an executive suite. Worried about appearing elitist, Anton agreed only if SKB could put in an internal stair, so he wouldn't be cut off from the rest of the operation.
The stair became the centerpiece of the design. A floating structure, it not only connects the sixth-floor reception area to the seventh floor's offices for the CEO, human resources, and other executives but also expresses key company values of cohesiveness, creativity, and transparency. The latter quality comes courtesy of the enclosure, built from laminated glass covered entirely in clear red film—that's the corporate color.
Highly visible, the simple red box serves as an orientation device and, more important, the physical and symbolic heart of the headquarters. "The best way to connect image and user was by making the user go through," Santa-Cruz explains. "Red isn't just a decorative element. It has architectural value."
Flooring in the box is mostly red, a composite terrazzo tile. And the adjacent wall is painted a shade of red customized to match the corporate logo. Throughout the office, the color serves as a constant reminder that you're at Hanley Wood, whether you're an employee sliding open a red-lacquered panel on a workstation or a candidate applying for a job—in another red glass box that human resources uses to conduct interviews.
"I've never been afraid of color," Santa-Cruz says. "A lot of designers feel it should be reserved for the art or upholstery, because then you can change it easily. 'A few chairs in red—done!' But I try to convince clients to commit to color. I'm interested in how to take that mandate and make it more complex, really weave it into the design. Solid or transparent, I like it bold."
Curiously, the one place that you don't find much red is the chairman's own meeting room, which is white—at least until he turns on the light. Depending on his mood, he can program a halogen-fluorescent chandelier to whatever color he likes.
Everywhere you look, various types of lighting convey intimacy and stimulate the imagination. In the stairwell, a sconce's three arms can be contorted into various poses. The conference room features a series of pendant fixtures that are architectural elements in themselves, horizontal acrylic planes containing rows of round low-voltage halogen sources.
"At the end of the day, it's still office space. So how do you create an experience that goes beyond the color and pragmatics?" Santa-Cruz asks. "You need to weave in other elements that enrich the design experience and make you want to come in to work."