Creative agency Cole & Weber United sought a unique design for their new location in Seattle’s South Lake Union area that would readily distinguish their space from other communications firms relocating to the same building. Gensler’s design relies on individualized design strategies, including architectural details and custom finishes palettes, to express the energy and creativity of Cole & Weber’s brand and work culture throughout their new space.
Even more than color, though a critical part of the strategy, the design of this workspace is about texture and materials: concrete, cedar, natural materials, and even delicate and gossamer white fabrics, each selected and carefully placed to draw out their tactile qualities.
The earthy sensibility of these materials evokes a feel of the Northwest that Cole & Weber wanted their new space to convey, but in a subtle, non-literal away. It was important to the agency leaders that a conceptual integrity exist behind the project’s design.
Inspired by the idea of “tension”, Gensler’s design concept focuses specifically on the tension between opposites and the energy sparked by the juxtaposition of dissimilar elements. The result is an environment that projects an aura of new possibilities and sensory experience.
The concept translates the uniform base design of the floor plan (6th floor) into a space of tensional contrasts: raw elements placed against refined, transparent planes against opaque, exposed concrete walls against delicate sheer draperies, raw cedar walls against glass panels, exposed raised floor concrete tiles against refined carpet, and even frameless wood doors that read as opaque planes against transparent planes of glass.
The space embraces two extremes — raw elements (exposed brick and concrete) and refined (transparent, diaphanous fabric, or stark white walls) — in rare fashion, with most clients preferring one kind of environment over the other. To add a layer of depth to its function as work environment, the space is infused with a warm, almost residential feel.
A sunken lounge is the first space experienced upon entering the Cole & Weber workplace, a retro living room projecting a comforting sense of home with a pool table, big screen TV, and video gaming area. The kitchen, directly adjacent, offers staff working long hours a place to gather, eat, socialize, and brainstorm.
The design emphasizes open work areas located along the perimeter windows, a critical priority for the client. Support spaces at the core of the building form a kind of functional “spine” to the floor plate. This allows for maximum flexibility should the company to grow or contract.
The space also includes war rooms, team areas, private offices, lounge space, kitchen, editing room, focus room, conference room and support areas (copy & storage). The reception/lobby area, located on the fifth floor, is shared with the other relocated firms, as a cost-efficient real estate strategy. The base building (designed by another firm) is a green building, with LEED Silver certification pending. The interior workstations have no panels to allow for and respect airflow and natural ventilation.