An innovative tunnel is a two-way street at AI3's combined Atlanta studio for Artistic Image and Artemis Creative
Georgia Dzurica -- Interior Design, 11/1/2006 12:00:00 AM
Artistic Image, a fast-paced animation company, and Artemis Creative, a busy graphics-and-branding concern, were used to pooling resources: printers, copiers, scanners, even artists. The two Atlanta studios, which have two founding partners in common, had also come to share an aversion to the dark, virtually windowless space they had long called home. When they went in search of something radically different, they discovered the King Plow Arts Center on the edge of downtown. The multiuse building offered not only 28-foot ceilings but also large windows and stupendous clerestories.
To come up with plans for a space housing separate businesses that often work together, the companies turned to AI3—a firm that specializes, as principal Lucy Aiken-Johnson puts it, in "projects where people gather to work, have lunch, or shop." Aiken-Johnson had been the youngest interior design associate principal, ever, at Thompson, Ventulett, Stainback & Associates, and she'd worked on the Georgia Aquarium, one of the largest such facilities in the world, with a team that included Dan Maas. In 2004, she, Maas, their colleague Joe Remling, and her architect-artist husband, Patrick Johnson, set up shop as AI3. (He'd been at Stanley Beaman & Sears, which focuses on health-care interiors.) Since then, the quartet has made a mission of working for young, entrepreneurial companies looking to drive innovation in Atlanta.
Transforming 4,000 square feet at the King Plow Arts Center, AI3 had to design a space that was branded by neither studio. "We sat down to define what it means to be creative in general," Maas says. The longtime collaboration sparked the architects' central intervention, a 56-foot-long tunnel of frosted acrylic supported by curvy plywood ribs. This passageway leads from the reception area back to Artemis Creative's studio as well as hiding a staircase that brings visitors up Artistic Image, on a new mezzanine.
On one hand, the tunnel separates the two companies, keeping work-in-progress private. (While they often share a client, they occasionally find themselves working for competitors in a single field.) On the other hand, the tunnel functions as a gathering spot. "It really highlights the movement and the dynamic between the groups," Johnson says.
That's largely an effect of the acrylic panels' translucency—an idea that was just fine by Ed Dye, a founding partner of both companies. "I don't like drywall," he proclaims.
AI3 first built a 3-D model of the space, then turned to Artistic Image for animation. Both forms, used together, enabled the architects to see how light might bounce around between so much plastic and to experiment with color. Green acrylic, for example had originally been specified for the tunnel; the team eventually backed away from that but instead painted the tunnel's internal plasterboard wall in an apple green. Up on the mezzanine, AI3 carpeted a small section of floor in a gray broadloom with a green tinge.
"The fact that their old space was extremely dark drove our choice of white finishes and furnishings," Aiken-Johnson explains. Inside a clear acrylic rollover perpendicular to the tunnel, a break room features round white tables and Ron Arad chairs with white shells for seats. Right outside, white lounge chairs furnish a meeting area affectionately known as the think tank. AI3 painted the concrete floor here white and chose a slightly different shade of white for three of the four main walls.
Junior staff members downstairs at Artemis Creative work out in the open, at desks separated by mobile privacy screens resembling enormous milky-white butterfly wings. For the front of individual offices, AI3 suspended glass panels from the building's exposed aluminum struts—an ersatz curtain wall. Each of the offices has a task lamp, plus a tubular fluorescent sconce that looks like Luke Skywalker's light saber. It's in this airy environment that the management team fine-tunes promotional campaigns for clients ranging from a local theater group to hometown heavies Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines.