Investing in Creativity
Boom or bust, a San Francisco office by Rottet Studio proves just how highly Artis values art and design
Edie Cohen -- Interior Design, 3/1/2009 12:00:00 AM
It's a teaser. Break the name Artis in two, art is, and it implies a gallery or an art consultancy. So does the minimally appointed white reception area. Its glossy-white biomorphic desk could be mistaken for a piece by Zaha Hadid, whose stools, in fact, line the window wall straight ahead. Only on the other side of the floor does a long trading desk give the space away for what it is: Artis Capital Management, a San Francisco money-management firm.
The office was designed by two art devotees, Interior Design Hall of Fame member Lauren Rottet and her deputy Kelie Mayfield—who completed the job as Rottet Studio but were hired under the aegis of DMJM Rottet. "I didn't know Lauren Rottet from Adam," Artis founder Stuart Peterson remarks. But the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art board member did have a vision, and he set out to find a designer who could make it a reality. "That's the beauty of the Internet," he says. Mouse clicks away, Rottet's online portfolio presented a global tour of corporate quarters, many of them exhibiting his desired look. "Long-term," he adds, "my goal is to populate all the walls with art and change it up over time." (His $20 million Tiburon spread, formerly owned by Andre Agassi, is populated with work by Jean Michel Basquiat, Anselm Kiefer, and Joel Shapiro.)
Occupying the 16,200-square-foot penthouse of the Steuart Tower, Welton Becket and Associates's 1976 building near the Embarcadero Center and the Ferry Building, Artis boasts city and water views, the latter stretching from the Bay Bridge to Alcatraz. Rottet says she made sure nothing would impinge on them: "We carefully laid out the plan so that no walls touch the building perimeter." Planning reflected the familial, nonhierarchical corporate ethos, too.
Serving Artis senior staff and occasional visitors are 13 glassed-in private offices that, at first, look mysteriously empty, with nothing more than a task chair in sight. In fact, they're as intricately outfitted as steamer trunks. Wall systems deftly hide everything from printers, TVs, personal safes, and trash cans to full-size desktops—until the appropriate door swings open to reveal them. Meanwhile, traders and researchers spend most of their waking hours glued to the long desk that runs parallel to one of the window walls. The desk, clad in shiny white plastic laminate, has articulated work surfaces equipped with small computer monitors as well as plug-and-play hookups to charge cell phones, BlackBerrys, or iPods. "We made it as human as possible," Mayfield says, adding: "Most of these traders are incredibly fit. Sometimes they work while sitting on exercise balls."
The gray and red plastic balls are stashed, along with free weights and elastic bands, in the lounge around the corner, under a seemingly endless bar of pale gray marble and cerused oak burl. And storage isn't the only clever surprise the bar holds. One of its ends is actually a 75-inch monitor for digital art. Along the side is a wine refrigerator. At the far end, vertical sections of oak burl pull out to reveal themselves as the backs of dining chairs, popping with seat cushions in hot-pink and electric-blue hair-on hide. In other words, the bar is like the traders themselves: It multitasks.
Rottet and Mayfield programmed in more downtime options in the corner gym, where a photomural of driftwood stretches across the ceiling. For relaxation on the job, the designers placed a break-out area next to the trading desk. Here, the sober right angles of dark gray lounge chairs and Rottet's low white table are relieved by the colorful floral wallpaper lining the table's drawers and the energetic lines looping across a monumental canvas by Matthew Ritchie.
In both work and play zones, a minimum number of materials produce maximum effects. The oak burl from the bar lines punched-up ceiling coffers. Most flooring is pale limestone, while charcoal-gray lava stone at the windows "reinforces the notion of ripples at the water's edge," Rottet notes. Between the two types of stone, spanning one whole window wall, an unbroken expanse of luxurious gray carpet displays a darker gray inkblot pattern, open to endless literal and figurative interpretations.
So what's the real meaning of that Artis name? It applies equally to money management—at least when profitable—and to designs in its service. The word is Latin for skill.
Photography by Eric Laignel.
Kai Broms (Project Manager); Sandy Lam; Christopher Olexy; Laine Gregory: Rottet Studio. Out-Fit: Gym Consultant. Rivera Consulting Group: Structural Engineer. Glumac: Mep. Design Workshops; Impressions Architectural Millworker; Patella Woodworking: Woodwork. Hathaway Dinwiddie Construction Company: General Contractor.
From Front Vitra: Side Chair (Reception). Established & Sons: Stools (Reception, Hall, Lounge), Rounded Table (Break-Out Area). Martin Brattrud: Custom Lounge Chairs (Reception, Lounge). Larsen: Chair Fabric. Herman Miller: Chairs (Conference Room, Office), Ottoman (Office). Coverings Etc.: Floor Stone (Hall), Bar Stone (Lounge), Backsplash Material (Pantry). Nippo Electric Co.: Recessed Ceiling Fixtures (Lounge). Keleen Leathers: Chair Upholstery. Spring Street Studio: Storage Bay Liner (Lounge), Drawer Liner (Break-Out Area). Chilewich: Flooring (Gym). Steeltex: Custom Mural. Rockwood Manufacturing Company: Door Pull (Office). Decca: Square Table (Break-Out Area). Dornbracht: Sink Fittings (Pantry). Bernhardt Design: Chairs (Break-Out Area). Glant Textiles Corporation: Chair Fabric. Karastan: Solid Carpet (Break-Out Area, Office). La Cour: Custom Desk (Trading Floor). Zumbtobel: Linear Fixture. GlodenStateFlooring: Flooring. Droog: Custom Chairs (Hall). Crate And Barrel Through Martin Brattrud: Table. Throughout Decorative Carpets: Custom Carpet. Vetter Stone Company: Limestone Floor Tile. Kurt Versen Company: Recessed Ceiling Fixtures. Pratt & Lambert: Paint.