A Dynamic and Open Workspace
San Francisco’s Richard Pollack & Associates creates a dynamic, open workspace for an expanding Bay Area business.
“THIS PROJECT INVOLVED several leaps of faith,” says designer Gary Nichols, a senior associate at Richard Pollack & Associates (RPA) who managed the renovation of headquarters for the Hamel Group, “employment marketing strategists” serving the biotech industry. For starters, recalls Nichols, the company committed to not only a largely unexplored area of Oakland’s old shipyards but also an unconventional industrial space in 1998–“before every dot.com had its office in a former warehouse.” As one of the Bay Area’s fastest growing companies, the Hamel Group required an office that could accommodate its expanding workforce and serve as a serious recruitment tool. In addition, the company sought a bold, progressive design that would appeal to its biotech clientele as well as Hamel’s young staff. RPA worked closely with CEO Pamela Hamel and CFO Mike Pauletich to devise an environment that fosters creativity and efficiency, while also providing comfort and influencing employee retention.
Among the project’s greatest challenges was the conversion of adjacent spaces in two separate, but conjoined buildings into one unified, open office. “The main programmatic objective was to create a whole,” says Nichols. The spaces were gutted and all walls were removed, except for the shear wall between the two buildings. Stripped down to its bricks, the wall was opened in two places to unify the spaces. “A small doorway had been cut into the wall to allow passage from one side to the other,” explains Nichols. “But we created large, ceiling-height openings to open the spaces to one another.” The plan is organized around a central public core with offices and work stations located around the perimeter. A curved boat-shaped form, which intersects the shear wall and arcs up to the ceiling, anchors the newly (used, 7,000-sq.-ft. office.