When global advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi was looking to transform 80,000 square feet of warehouse space in Los Angeles into its Southern California headquarters, the firm’s leaders turned to pioneering design and architecture firm Blitz to make it happen. Known for designing human-centric offices and multidisciplinary spaces for leading companies around the world, Blitz had the skillset to deliver a forward-thinking, inspiring, and user-focused environment worthy of the brilliant Saatchi & Saatchi team.
WOMEN AT THE FORE
In the design and construction industries, it’s rare for a project team to be led mostly by women; women make up only 17 percent of registered architects and 10.9 percent of contractors. Defying the odds, from the client to the designer and contractor, the entire leadership team on the Blitz and Saatchi & Saatchi fronts was made up of women. This unique collaboration fostered a distinctly human response to the space, with an emphasis on the user experience and delivering warmth, comfort, and moments of sparkle and delight.
“A highly creative and competitive advertising agency needs an inspiring and energized space that celebrates ideas through their development. As fellow creatives, the Saatchi & Saatchi team were a huge part of the design process—and this wasn’t just the purview of those in senior leadership roles,” remarks Melissa Hanley, AIA, co-founder/principal of Blitz. “We conducted a number of pre- planning surveys, interactive visioning activities, and breakout sessions with employees and other stakeholders to achieve an environment that empowers and nurtures the team and inspires them to produce their signature superlative work. Lalita Kohler [Saatchi & Saatchi’s CEO] and I were immediately in sync with one another stylistically. It’s not often that I get to work with a client who not only has such a refined sense of taste, but also the language to communicate that taste to the design team. Working with her was like having a natural extension to our design team.”
A GARDEN OF IDEAS
As the Blitz team dove into Saatchi & Saatchi’s world and learned more about how the marketing teams develop projects, it became clear that the creatives needed a safe space to build and break and rebuild ideas and concepts before formally pitching to their project leads. A workspace that fosters creativity and supports exploration at all points was of the utmost importance to the agency. The “idea” became its own constituent in the project—something to be considered spatially and solved for specifically. Great ideas, like beautiful flowers, require the safety of a germination process before sprouting and blooming.
With this in mind, Blitz implemented a metaphorical garden layout of diverse spaces connected via a meandering path. Inspired by the fields and meadows of Southern California, this path provides views across open “fields” (neighborhoods) and links up a series of protective seed pods (project areas and rooms) for safe and hidden idea generation. Biophilic garden walls define the “crops” and showcase the “harvest.” Apertures and strategic wayfinding allow the project to unfold rather than reveal itself all at once.
“Within minutes of meeting, we knew Blitz was the right partner for the project. They understood office space, our needs and were up for the challenge of working with a group of very vocal creatives,” remarks Lalita Kohler, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi. “A beautiful collaboration of hearts and minds resulted in the solution to the agency’s needs—a series of ‘buildings within a building,’ designed to support Saatchi & Saatchi’s diverse functions. Our completed project has a timeless quality, even in a post-pandemic world. We have the open space required to allow for more square footage per team member and the variety of specialty areas needed to support adapting work styles and schedules. Minimal changes need to be made with no sacrifice of the design intent and the lovely aesthetic.”
A LOVE LETTER TO L.A.
The warehouse shell provided its own inspiration. Developed in 1966 by Craig Ellwood, the designer who started the L.A. Modern aesthetic, the building features steel trusses at an industrial scale. As a vast single-level space with meandering circulation, Blitz knew the design had to be grounded with bold architecture that would act as orienting reference points throughout the journey.
The architectural language was devised as a “love letter to L.A.” With a mix of clean boxes and a dose of Mid-century Modern, the architecture is simultaneously current and timeless. The creation of curated pods—the buildings within the building—in a range of scales, locations and orientations establishes the path through the space.
Open offices, breakrooms, all-hands and similar functions are organized along the window lines to provide daylight to the largest group of users. These spaces provide the settings for this community of creatives to meet, discuss, collaborate, and develop the ideas that drive Saatchi & Saatchi and its clients’ businesses.
Personal touches, such as a library featuring portraits of Saatchi & Saatchi’s furry family members, add warmth and connectivity. Bespoke signage throughout the office helps with not only space identification and wayfinding, but also offer some comic relief. For example, the Help Desk is simply branded by a neon sign: “Oh Sh*t”.
STANDING THE TEST OF TIME
The team wanted to ensure that the sense of safety extended beyond idea creation and into the workforce. With a beautifully diverse population, it was important that the project reflected Saatchi & Saatchi’s strong culture and values of inclusivity. Saatchi & Saatchi tasked Blitz with transforming the warehouse space pre-COVID, and the office was completed just weeks before shelter-in-place. While the project was completed in a pre-COVID world, it has stood the test of time and has been a welcoming and nurturing environment as employees have returned to the office, thanks to Blitz’s forward-thinking human-centered approach and focus on flexibility.
Saatchi & Saatchi’s prior office served the firm for more than 30 years and Blitz hopes this project will have a similar lifespan. Built to withstand the test of time and promote a healthy work environment, the new L.A. office is an inspirational space that fosters the creativity and collaboration needed to produce world-class work. The space has the flexibility to embrace the future needs of a modern workforce and remain supportive of its individuality, productivity and, most importantly, wellness.
PHOTOS: Bruce Damonte, unless otherwise noted
ARCHITECT, INTERIOR DESIGNER, ENVIRONMENTAL GRAPHICS AND INTERIOR LANDSCAPE DESIGNER: Blitz
- Melissa Hanley, AIA, principal in charge, lead designer
- Kimberley O’Dowd, project manager
- Riz Walker, lead interior designer
- Tamara Roth, interior designer
- Seth Hanley, AIA, L.A. managing partner, technical lead
- Justin Beadle, project architect
- John Hunter, AIA, specifications
GENERAL CONTRACTOR: Clune Construction
MEP ENGINEER: ARC Engineering
STRUCTURAL ENGINEER: Degenkolb
LIGHTING DESIGNER: HLB
ACOUSTICAL CONSULTANT: Veneklasen Associates
ALUMINUM FRAMES: Wilson Partitions
WOOD DOORS: VT Industries
FOLDING STOREFRONT: Arcadia
DOOR HARDWARE: Schlage
METAL FRAMING: FrameTek
ACOUSTIC CEILING: CertainTeed
ACOUSTIC WOOD CEILING: Navy Island
ACOUSTIC WALL: Tectum
ACOUSTIC INSULATION: K-13 Insulation from International Cellulose Corp.
ACOUSTICAL PANELS: Unika Vaev
ACOUSTIC ROOM: Echo Eliminator
PAINT: Dunn Edwards
BLEACHERS: Hussey Seating
ROLLER SHADES: Mecho