Meeting in the Middle

An art-centric, light-filled workplace provides a bridge between two former competitors.

At the start of 2017, Savills Studley acquired Cresa Orange County, creating a new commercial real estate brokerage powerhouse in Southern California. For the expanded office of 56 people, the design needed to seamlessly unite both organizations, while creating a space that served as a model for a collaborative workplace.

The space occupies the entire eighth floor of a luxury office tower in Newport Beach, California and is defined by dramatic floor-to-ceiling glass offering one-of-a kind views of the Pacific Ocean and surrounding hillsides.

The design process began with understanding the existing Savills Studley and Cresa work processes and flow to create a design which would respect the nature of each organization while elevating both.

“We thought about how the new space could express the philosophies of both companies yet create a new identity which effectively defined the new blended organization,” says Rick D’Amato, design director and principal in LPA’s Irvine office. The design focus revolved around two common denominators between the companies—a combined and extensive modern art collection, and the spectacular Orange County coastline views. Visually, the space became a showcase for both.

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As a symbolic bridge between the two organizations, LPA created a large central lobby and social space within the 18,000-square-foot floor plate. This space serves as a traditional reception area, but also functions as an enticing collaborative and social environment. As a respite between the focused workplace areas, this multiuse space provides a kitchen and wine bar, collaborative furnishings, ping pong and shuffleboard tables and televisions creating an alternate work space, social gathering opportunities and the ability to host large-scale after-hours events.

“These days, we no longer work from just 9 to 5,” says D’Amato. “Instead, the workplace has become an extension of our home. While it is important to remain professional, our office environment can and should provide many of the comforts of home.” Similarly, the architects established the prime corner spaces as additional collaborative areas. Functionally diverse though their furnishings, these spaces provide more traditional conferencing capabilities, as well as more relaxed types of meeting spaces.

In addition, the workplace must be a space that nurtures instead of diminishes. Through smart environmental and human-centric design practices, the office environment has the ability to make users better, healthier and happier. Savills Studley is built within a LEED Gold certified office tower that meets or exceeds energy and water conservation measures. But the space is about more than just efficiency. Each personal work space is ergonomically designed with sit-and-stand capabilities. All staff have continual access to daylight and views. Lighting demands are radically reduced through sensors and daylight harvesting. Materials and finishes were selected for recycled content and recyclability, as well as low-VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) content.

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But the true emphasis of the space is light—both natural daylight as well as gallery type lighting focusing upon the diverse art collection. The daylight is allowed to filter through the space in a variety of ways including through glass panels between offices and below walls which appear to float above the floor.

Additionally, walls are broken down using vertical slates which create unique patterns and shadows throughout the space while providing loose definitions of function. Built-in furniture and millwork float above the floor surface using hidden light sources, further emphasizing the feeling of lightness and continuity.

While private offices dominate the plan, glass doors and walls between offices and circulation areas create transparency and daylight penetration throughout the entire floor. A classic white-on-white backdrop, including natural marble flooring, amplifies the natural light and creates a gallery-like setting for the artwork and sculptural furnishings.

The LPA team included in-house lighting designers, who developed a flexible lighting system for the artwork, recessing the spotlights in sleek black ceiling coves. In areas next to the windows, the architects removed the dropped ceiling in order to attract attention towards the expansive views while taking advantage of the abundant natural light.

“The design is less about the space itself, and more about how light moves through the space, the art, and the views beyond the space,” says D’Amato. “The space represents a bold and progressive vision for the future of two unique and successful companies.”

This story originally appeared in Catalyst Issue 2 2019. Subscribe today to receive Catalyst, a quarterly publication that takes a deep dive into design ideas, industry leaders and initiatives.