RTKL Stands Tall
The firm's got a brand-new interiors division and a Los Angeles studio to match
Edie Cohen -- Interior Design, 1/1/2008 12:00:00 AM
It would clearly take some very enticing bait to hire Yvonne Colacion away from Gensler, her professional home of 11 years. What lure did RTKL Associates offer? To be the senior design director of a start-up interiors department and to debut with a renovation of the firm's own studio in Los Angeles. Colacion bit. And a five-month, phased construction process ensued.
For 12 years, RTKL has occupied 41,000 square feet on the concourse level of the Bank of America Plaza tower downtown. The space was divided in two by a courtyard, which might seem like a drawback. But the location had a built-in storefront presence right on the B of A concourse, which suited Colacion just fine. "I love retail," she says.
To make sure that the larger of the two spaces would catch the eye of clients, vendors, and passersby alike, she and principal Jennifer Cardinal came up with a window display every bit as alluring as Simon Doonan's extravaganzas for Barneys New York—if not quite so cheeky. Who could resist the RTKL staff's fetching faces, printed on acrylic disks strung together horizontally on a standard store cable system? "They're the jewelry of the space," Cardinal notes. "They glitter and shine."
Most activity occurs, logically, in the larger studio, which came with a 5,000-square-foot mezzanine perfect for the technology, marketing, and administrative staffs. The setting is entirely open, and RTKL's horizontal moves point the way in, starting with the reception desk: Its top half, veneered in reconstituted zebrawood, angles up and down to draw the eye along for more than 20 feet.
For the studios proper, RTKL opted to go off-grid. "Fractured, with a degree of chaos" is how Colacion describes the arrangement. Getting that effect meant custom workstations. The 8-foot-wide modular units are built simply of steel-framed high-density fiberboard clad in white plastic laminate. She used panels of perforated painted steel for upper bins—"not too big, since we don't need much storage."
"Sight lines were important, since we were blending teams made up of architects, interior designers, graphic designers, and branding specialists," continues Colacion, who was recently made VP. The overhead expanse is virtually unbroken except for the parallel rows of energy-efficient fluorescent linear fixtures. Underfoot runs carpet striated in black and gray.
Divided by only three steps from the workplace proper, the lounge is groovy enough that club-hoppers might experience déjà vu. Capped by a constellation of giant white fiberglass pendant globes, the semicircular area supports ad hoc hanging out, especially around a bar with a counter of hand-rubbed zinc. For lunch, staff can opt for tables along the crescent banquette, with its alternating sections of acid-green, icy-blue, and taupe vinyl upholstery. Charrettes, presentations, and client meetings are welcome, too. "Things are a little playful," Colacion admits with a smile.
RTKL went for full-on fun with the end wall's vivid mural painted by stage-set designers. It looks a bit like a riff on L.A.'s endless freeways. And it is, partially. "It's about movement, connecting, and intersection in general," Cardinal explains. RTKL shows off its own graphic prowess on a wall that's covered in white vinyl printed with the staff's multilingual responses to the question: What is inspirational about working here? (The fusion of culture and styles. I enjoy the people.)
Intersection finds a literal interpretation in both studios. RTKL's branding and graphics groups printed the word, along with abstracted master-planning symbols, on the colorful canvas shades of impressively long pendant fixtures suspended above the team islands.
RTKL made its main green move with what Colacion calls a "light-harvesting system." Most of the sunshine comes from a window wall at the rear, by the materials library. Sensors here read the daylight, then adjust supplementary levels throughout.
Materials, too, express eco-friendliness. A synthetic certified by Greenguard covers an ottoman by the entry. Aside from the striated broadloom, most flooring is cork. Colacion and Cardinal practiced adaptive reuse, too. The conference and presentation rooms' enclosure panels were recycled from RTKL's original setup—where they were already recycled from the previous tenant, B. of A. "They're 11 years old," Colacion estimates.
There's absolutely nothing recycled about the video presentations spotlighting the firm's latest architecture and interiors projects, such as Beijing's Chinese Museum of Film, the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum, and a Moscow sports and entertainment complex. That says "RTKL" in any language.