Edie Cohen -- Interior Design, 10/1/2007 12:00:00 AM
Wong Doody has airlines (Alaska), cell phones (T-Mobile), and car audio systems (Alpine) as accounts. The Seattle advertising agency has no beer campaigns to date, but it did set up its Los Angeles shop in a 1940's beer distribution warehouse in Culver City. By the time the agency called in Shubin + Donaldson Architects to revamp the warehouse, part of a complex recently redeveloped for small businesses, the brick building had been vacant for 25 years.
Russell Shubin is LEED-accredited, so Wong Doody automatically got green, at least where appropriate. "That's how we inject sustainability," Shubin comments. Then, too, adaptive reuse makes the project intrinsically green—call it eco-passive.
Long gridded windows, along the front and back, ensure that natural light penetrates the 13,500-square-foot interior's three bays. Coupled with the 18 new skylights that the developer put into the bow-truss ceiling, there's almost too much of a good thing. To cut glare, Shubin and Robin Donaldson covered all but two of the skylights with translucent resin panels. Even so, during the daytime, supplementary lighting is rarely needed. Most of it comes from compact fluorescents.
The architects retained characteristic industrial elements for a "sense of noise and energy," as CEO Ben Wiener describes it. "There's no hush, nothing extravagant or trendy." Creative is as creative does.
No doubt, the best of the industrial relics are the huge zinc refrigerator doors that the Wong Doody crew uses as magnetic pinup surfaces. A pair of zinc doors separate the client-friendly zone—reception, conference room, kitchen—from the inner sanctum of the print-production bull pen. A single zinc door on the conference room's end wall swings open to reveal yet another door behind: a garage door of aluminum-framed translucent acrylic. When that one rolls up, the conference room opens entirely to the fresh air.
The conference room, war rooms, and private offices are all housed in freestanding enclosures. "Because we couldn't touch the shell of the building, we developed a strategy to insert rooms into the center of the space," Shubin says. Donaldson compares them to a "village of temporary pavilions." They're rich with texture, upping the inherent materiality of the surrounding timber, brick, and concrete. For example, black or green chalkboard paint and silver dry-erase board help part of the structures' exterior walls multitask as interactive surfaces.
Shubin and Donaldson designed or selected furnishings with an eye toward ecological concerns and, let's face it, functional good looks. The reception desk combines panels of translucent white bubble-textured resin, manufactured from 40 percent pre-consumer material, with a frame of chartreuse quartz composite. Both materials appear in the kitchen, too.
For the conference table, individual desks, and workstations, the architects turned to Italy. The workstation design is based on aluminum-framed units with components that slide back and forth on rails; Shubin and Donaldson went with colored acrylic for side panels and white plastic laminate for work surfaces. The top of the conference table, meanwhile, is back-painted glass. No mistaking the cutting-edge Italian roots of the system's benches, either. They look fabulous with their clear glass seats and colored acrylic pads—and fabulously uncomfortable. At Wong Doody, luckily, nobody sits still for long.