In the past week or so, a lot of ink has been spilled (both real and digital), and a lot of airtime has been filled about Marissa Mayer’s recent decision to bring Yahoo employees back into the office. Battle lines have been drawn and pundits have weighed in on the virtues of both.
For those of us who have experience with both, though, it’s a trickier proposition to stake out a claim that one mode of working trumps another. There is something to be said for a setting that includes time for errands or exercise and allows the opportunity to work in solitude—without the distractions that can plague us in the office. On the other hand, working as part of a team definitely has its perks. Decisions can be made immediately and brainstorming sessions can happen just about anywhere. Occasionally the frustrations of one might make us yearn for the other in a classic case of the grass is always greener.
Cuningham Group’s new Culver City space, the site of FORM’s recent Work Ethic event, makes a strong case for continued appeal—and necessity—of the office. As is more and more the case with environments dedicated to creative professions, Cuningham Group’s new digs, in a former industrial building, open things up and bring in light, creating a place of imagination and community.
Named for its location in the city’s Hayden Tract district, the space features an open, light-flooded, energy-efficiency-boosting floor plan. Large skylights and generous glass windows and doors at the front and rear of the building bathe the occupants in natural light. A noticeable absence of interior walls also allows sunlight to drench the entire space (repurposed shipping containers house offices, servers and storage). Even the most visible interior element, a circular, wood structure that contains two conference rooms and visually connects the front and rear entrances, has a low profile and a lamella pattern that further lightens its presence.
One of the knocks against traditional office spaces is the lack of fresh air. The design of Hayden Place solves this dilemma by having a natural ventilation system that allows fresh air to flow throughout the building, even harnessing the sea breezes that blow through Culver City. More of the outside is brought in—and air quality further improved—with a lush indoor garden planted with native species. Eventually, a “backyard” garden will grow outside.
By far the greatest benefit to working in central office is the chance to interact with colleagues frequently in both formal and informal ways. To foster a sense of both, of community and collaboration, the kitchen set-up gives the chance the staff to gather for family style meals, while a gallery area offers a comfortable space mingle and brainstorm and provides room for events and client meetings.
With its thoughtful design, Cuningham Group’s Hayden Place continues the conversation on work, offering a pleasurable, mindful, collaborative experience for its employees.