Adapting a historic framework with spaces to gather, focus, explore and create

A wooden framework guides circulation around the atrium.
© Adam Rouse

Partnering with a previous workplace client on its new Oakland offices, we were inspired by the character of the historic site, a former department store, completed in 1929, that offered generous floor area and ceiling heights. Within this framework, we were excited to create a healthy and intuitive workplace that addressed a range of occupant needs — from new spaces for focused individual work to access to natural light and improved circulation.

Spaces for staff to grab a coffee and hold informal meetings
© Adam Rouse

The building’s expansive floor plates and the 85-foot-high central atrium at its core provided an opportunity to reframe the organization of circulation and gathering areas, meeting spaces, and individual desks. On the main office floors, we created a series of neighborhoods that achieved the desired separation between focused work and collaborative areas, without sacrificing a sense of intuitive connection throughout.

Work environments overlooking a central atrium
We designed work environments overlooking the building’s atrium to feel inviting and comfortable. © Adam Rouse

A grid of acoustic wood baffling suspended below the ceiling wraps the light-filled atrium, guiding occupants between flexible seating arrangements, cafes, and IT and support desks. While providing a unifying design element, this framework enabled us to preserve the raw character of the ceiling while softening noise from circulation areas. Set against a backdrop of diffuse light from the atrium, furniture arrangements delineated by lush plantings provide informal gathering and break areas or a comfortable place to work.

Semi-private spaces are interspersed within work areas.
© Adam Rouse

Glass-enclosed meeting rooms offer a buffer between the circulation thoroughfare and workstation clusters at the perimeter, allowing space for continued conversation as staff transition from meetings to grab a coffee before returning to their desks. Cabana booths mixed in between smaller neighborhood work areas provide semiprivate space for quick calls or one-on-one meetings. Installations from local artists working in a variety of mediums — from paintings to woven hangings to a communal table by Oakland-based woodworker Aleksandra Zee — feature prominently throughout.

Outdoor terraces, designed in collaboration with EinwillerKuehl, include numerous seating areas overlooking the city, hills and bay. © Adam Rouse

The sixth floor includes a large multifunctional space for all-hands gatherings, dining, and impromptu work sessions, with direct access to landscaped outdoor terraces overlooking the surrounding Uptown neighborhood, Oakland hills, and the bay. Public gathering areas and restaurants on the ground floor open to the atrium and street, creating a welcoming environment that invites both building occupants and the surrounding community to explore a range of offerings.

Designing buildings that inspire connection and wonder in every person who experiences them.