An Eye-Catching Vision for A Creative, Collegial Office

Ophthalmic medical technology firm Glaukos viewed its new headquarters as an opportunity to strengthen its innovative culture, while looking toward the future of the industry and the workplace.

As a pioneer in treatments for chronic eye diseases, Glaukos’ mantra is “we’ll go first,” reflecting the firm’s commitment to push the envelope to develop first-to-market technologies. Innovation and taking chances are at the core of the company’s growth and success.

At the same time, under CEO Tom Burns, the firm has developed a uniquely familial atmosphere, where everyone in the firm is encouraged to know everyone’s name and shake their hand. A supportive, creative culture is also part of the Glaukos DNA.

“We’re a very culture-driven company, very tightknit,” says Kevin Massey, Director of Global Technical Services for Glaukos. “We like to operate like a small company, even though we’ve been rapidly growing.”

When the company decided to renovate a 1990s-era campus in Aliso Viejo, California, for its new high-tech headquarters, one of the key design goals was to preserve Glaukos’ long-standing family-oriented traditions. That paradox of blending tradition and state-of-the-art technology drove the design process, which included a detailed exploration of the Glaukos culture and work habits.

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The renovation was designed to create a welcoming, open atmosphere that connects to the outdoors.

The company wanted the new headquarters to link to existing Glaukos offices and connect with the outdoors, on a “a campus where people want to be together to drive innovation,” Massey says. Additional collaborative space, more centralized conferencing, open workstations and a flow that encourages “casual collisions” were top priorities. At the same time, the new complex needed to find a difficult balance between the functioning of lab clean rooms and R&D space — the firm reinvests approximately 30% of net sales exclusively on research and development — with the structural concerns of older buildings, and a desire for seamless integration with the outdoor spaces.

LPA’s integrated team and its ability to take a holistic approach to the project was a big part of why Glaukos hired the design firm, Massey says. “It was very important for us to find a firm that has landscape architecture, structural design, interior design and architecture under one umbrella,” he says. “All their departments collaborate together, and they bring a lot of resources to a project.”

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The design opens spaces to natural daylight and views of the surrounding mountains and valley.

The resources included LPA’s Sustainability and Applied Research team, which helped Glaukos learn more about their employees’ work habits and needs, and consider options, as the plans developed and evolved during the COVID pandemic.

“This was a major physical move for the company,” says LPA Project Manager Amy DiCosola. “It was imperative that the design team worked to preserve the long-standing traditions of the company while integrating new, modern work processes.”

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A layout flow that encourages “casual collisions” was a top priority.

Glaukos leaders challenged LPA to find alternatives to promote interactions and openness and accommodate the unique needs of a company that doesn’t want to play it safe. “We definitely put them through the paces,” Massey says.

The renovated campus includes a trio of two-story buildings, a lab building, admin space and an additional property ready for future expansion. In the cluster of older buildings set back from the street, designers saw an opportunity to reshape the site to create an almost collegiate environment around the shared mission, says LPA Design Director Rick D’Amato. Previously a bland collection of manicured lawns and asphalt, the campus now includes areas for games and parties, shade structures, fire pits and reserved food truck parking, similar to a university quad.

This is a high-tech, state-of-the-art facility that’s going to allow us to develop and grow for years to come.

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A variety of spaces create opportunities for casual encounters.

“The outdoor spaces were intended to bring together lab scientists, office workers and the people from all parts of the company,” D’Amato says. “All the spaces were designed around the firm’s ethos of collaboration, family and shared mission.”

The existing shell and core of the 160,000-square-foot headquarters building was preserved in the design, which was developed in conjunction with LPA’s structural engineers. Internal spaces were opened to create flexible environments and allow for more intuitive circulation. Enclosed offices and functions were pulled away from the glass line to allow for the greatest penetration of natural daylight into the shared spaces and creating more fluid indoor-outdoor connections. Common areas and work environments provide expansive mountain and valley views.

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Materials, finishings and textures were chosen to develop a more comfortable, relaxing work environment that supports the health and well-being of the employees.

Different divisions of the company were designed around neighborhoods, allowing each group to grow and take ownership of their environment. The open floor plan and workstations eschew the typical corporate office hierarchy of executive spaces ringing the exterior. There’s equity between workspaces, with everybody utilizing the same furniture and sharing multiple collaboration spaces and wellness rooms. Small break rooms, designed almost like little coffeehouses, function as gathering spaces.

The open layout also created an array of branding opportunities. The oculus is a recurring symbol throughout the new campus, tying back to the Glaukos logo. The interior office space aligns around two open interconnecting stairs that are defined by another abstraction of the oculus form, anchored by enlarged representations of the traditional eye chart. A striking billboard entry, the form of the lobby, a simple rock fountain in the garden — all the spaces and forms tell the story of the firm and its culture.

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Break rooms are designed almost like little coffeehouses.

Materials, finishings and textures were chosen to develop a more comfortable, relaxing work environment that supports the health and well-being of the employees. “For a firm like this that focuses on medical devices, it’s a cliché to create a space that’s gray, drab and techie,” says LPA interior designer Nicole Fennell. “The goal was to create a more welcoming, human-centric environment that focused more on the good that they did rather than the products they produced.”

LPA’s ability to blend landscaping, structural engineering, interior design and architecture resulted in a more seamless design, Massey says. Landscaping and interior design teams coordinated on choosing finishes and designing circulation paths for the entire project, especially transitional indoor/outdoor space.

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Creating healthier environments and more connections to the outdoors were among the key goals for Glaukos leadership.

Part of the outdoor space is reclaimed parking area. The indoor break room connects to spaces for socialization and collaboration. A walking trail leads through an open space for games and activities. A covered media deck includes an outdoor TV and lounge space. A walking path on the back side of the building includes seating areas for private meetings that overlook the canyon. A respite garden provides a visual reprieve from the indoor workspaces and lobby and provides a space for passive restoration.

“It’s nice that they have these different types of spaces on one campus,” says LPA landscape architect Danielle Cleveland. “They utilized every little bit of space that they had.”

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A walking path includes seating areas for private meetings that overlook the canyon.

Designers also worked with Glaukos leadership to ensure an open space targeted for future expansion could be used for events, as well as games. “We studied how many tents and activities they could fit on the site and how it could be used until they decided to build something new,” Cleveland says.

The theme of connecting people and places includes a link to the firm’s second location in San Clemente. Near the break room and social space in Aliso Viejo, a massive, circular video wall allows staff to walk by and interact with colleagues 15 miles away, offering a literal eye to the firm’s first office.

Graphic Opportunities

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We were able to develop the opportunities for our own installations. We linked the graphics to the design of the space.

LPA’s environmental graphics team was involved from the start of the design process, integrating a comprehensive art and graphic program into the core of the Glaukos design.

At Glaukos, graphics, art and wayfinding are embedded in the architecture, interior, colors and patterning. A recurring oculus theme, a portal link to a sister office and abstracted depictions of the company’s work throughout the spaces help tell the story of Glaukos’ mission and culture.