Page D3.2 . 09 October 2002                     
ArchitectureWeek - Design Department
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    LA Expansive


    But this was the culture White, O'Connor was willing to defy in favor of exposure and a sense of egalitarianism. So Felderman + Keatinge created an unconventional plan of puzzle-piece spaces, varied ceiling heights, and an abundance of glass. The entire floor was demolished and reconfigured within six months. "They were willing to take the journey," says Keatinge, regarding the client's reaction to the design process. "There was a lot of participation on their part. Even the staff was involved in the process."

    Welcomed by Openness and Light

    To exploit the spectacular view, Felderman + Keatinge created a spacious, light-filled reception area that extends, unobstructed, from the elevators to the glass walls. A simple, yet refined reception desk is framed by an enormous saltwater aquarium, which serves both as literally animated art and as a translucent partition separating the desk from administrative workstations.

    Visitors in the comfortable waiting area near the window can enjoy the panoramic view or contemplate the meaning of an indoor Zen rock garden, designed by Stanley Felderman.

    The subdued color palette of the wood flooring, walls, and fabrics creates a relaxed setting, challenged only by the dynamism of shifting wall and ceiling planes of the two, glass-enclosed conference rooms that flank the reception area.

    The elimination of a visual barrier around the conference rooms might be alarming considering the confidential nature of the business that takes place there, but openness is exactly what the firm wanted to achieve. Though the rooms are equipped with shades, they are seldom used, reinforcing the perception that "there is nothing to hide."

    Innovative Space Distribution

    No two spaces in this 20,000-square-foot (1900-square-meter) office are alike. Twenty-four offices lining the perimeter vary in size and shape as a means of projecting equity through inequality. Without job stature being tied to room size or shape in an obvious way, the feeling of hierarchy is somewhat neutralized.

    The ceiling is raised along the exterior walls to augment a sense of spaciousness in each office, and to allow more daylight into the core. Support staff are located outside the offices in custom-designed workstations of maple and glass. Despite the lower ceiling heights in these areas, the curved interior walls, glass, and light enhance the impression of fluidity and openness.

    There are a total of six conference rooms of varying sizes, two "war rooms" for intensive research and discussion, a library, and a lunchroom. The conference rooms are distributed throughout, but the war rooms, which require more confidentiality, are positioned at the core.

    The library was created with comfort in mind. Located opposite the reception area with similar views, the library maintains a collection of reference and reading material in built-in maple shelving units. Small tables, comfortable chairs, and artwork provide an informal respite.

    The break room, better known as the "cafe," connects the north and south halves of the 23rd floor. Rather than make it a secondary space, as is common in professional environments, Felderman + Keatinge designed it to feel like a restaurant. Cafe tables and chairs face a bench seat below a lowered ceiling that curves for an atmospheric effect. The palette is similar to that in the reception area, and color makes a rare appearance in the aqua-hued glass tiles above the marble counter.

    License to Re-Create

    Beyond their architectural responsibilities, Felderman + Keatinge were given license (and a budget) to add finishing touches. They made substantial purchases of art (such as a Larry Bell painting in the lobby), furniture (Noguchi tables), and objets d'art.

    Furnishings, cabinetry, and hardware lend themselves to the open, comfortable, architectural surroundings, and it all seems to have affected company morale. "Since moving into our new offices, we have noticed a difference in both attorney and client attitudes," says White. The firm's recruitment efforts have improved as well. People who visit want to stay.

    In light of recent corporate scandals, will expressions of openness become a trend in high-end corporate design? Felderman predicts that demand for this kind of image will continue to grow dramatically during the next few years. One can hope that expressions of corporate openness will help to encourage the real thing.

    Allison Milionis is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer with a varied background in the arts and architecture professions. She has been published in several international architecture and design publications and is currently working on her first novel.



    ArchWeek Image

    Reception area and conference room of the White, O'Connor, Curry & Avanzado law office, with a Zen rock garden designed by Stanley Felderman.
    Photo: Marvin Rand

    ArchWeek Image

    A small conference room with full-height glass panels.
    Photo: Marvin Rand

    ArchWeek Image

    Small conference room.
    Photo: Marvin Rand

    ArchWeek Image

    Intermediate-sized conference room.
    Photo: Marvin Rand

    ArchWeek Image

    Floor plan of the White, O'Connor, Curry & Avanzado law office.
    Image: Felderman + Keatinge

    ArchWeek Image

    Custom workstation in a support staff area.
    Photo: Marvin Rand

    ArchWeek Image

    Library with informal lounge seating.
    Photo: Marvin Rand

    ArchWeek Image

    Cafe connecting the north and south halves of the 23rd floor.
    Photo: Marvin Rand


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