The Hackable Building: From Corporate to Cool for Tech Tenants

At Latitude 34 in Los Angeles, Gensler is re-conceiving office space for a new type of client. Jack Skelley tells us how. Rendering courtesy Gensler.

By Jack Skelley

While the commercial real estate market remains in the doldrums, with high vacancies and low rents, one submarket is on fire: Tech. Companies such as Google and YouTube are expanding into Southern California, for example, and gobbling up all the “cool” buildings. You know, old bow-truss warehouses turned into creative space that feels authentic, textured, scaled to the individual, and not “corporate” like most traditional office buildings.

Most of those buildings are now scarce, or too small for the burgeoning tech invasion. That’s why the architects at Gensler came up with the “hackable” building: taking underperforming offices and remaking them into attractive creative space.

“The generally accepted idea of the Class A Office Building is no longer relevant to today’s creative office tenant,” says Gensler Principal Michael White. “Instead, we focused on the user experience: Individual, personal front entry doors for each tenant, a seamless connection between interior office space and hyper-functional private exterior office space.”

Gensler is hacking the office complex of Latitude 34 in Playa Vista on the Los Angeles’ west side. First on the hacking list is to create individual addresses for businesses, where the current design funnels all tenants through a single common lobby.

The building’s original facade will be re-interpreted. Photo courtesy Gensler.

“This is what you find in warehouse re-uses, where you park nearby and walk up to your front door,” says White. “Second on the list is to create a sense of scale missing from monolithic office buildings. The idea is to break down the scale of the façade to make it feel like separate row houses.”

Gensler will also reconfigure the volume of space within the buildings, punching through floors to create two connecting floors rather than requiring tenants to occupy horizontally.

The renovation will create a more dynamic life for the building. Rendering courtesy Gensler.

Nothing was sacred, says White. “Every new material had to bring authenticity to the experience, bring a depth, texture, and warmth to the space. There must be access to fresh air. Active architecture, where stairs replace the elevator as the primary circulation spine.”

The hacking is on a fast track. Gensler’s re-created Latitude 34 is set to open by the end of this year.

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