While iCrete sounds like it would be the latest gizmo from Apple, it is, in fact, a service company that works with producers of high-performance custom concrete mixes with reduced cement content. Funded by Pacific Capital, iCrete occupies a floor of the venture capital firm’s headquarters in Beverly Hills. Stanley Felderman and Nancy Keatinge, partners of Felderman Keatinge + Associates, designed both spaces, creating a fairly conservative ambience for the parent company, but giving the start-up’s offices their own distinctive character.
“We wanted to create a raw, organic space that transcended the stereotypes of Beverly Hills,” says Felderman. “A sense of quality and permanence, not opulence. It was intended to send a subliminal message ‘we’re green.’”
iCrete’s business is to generate ideas and innovative systems, so the office layout had to foster interaction between the company’s 40 employees and their clientele. This is a think tank balancing privacy and transparency: glass-enclosed private offices line the perimeter, and open meeting areas and a central enclosure enable creative talent to work side by side. It helped that the architects had built a sense of trust with their client, and had tested their preference for loft-like spaces in their own office, which is located in a sleek Century City high-rise not far away.
The triangular floor plate of the steel-and-glass building provided abundant natural light on the two long sides, and the light extends to the core thanks to the transparent room-height divisions. From the elevator, visitors enter at an angle and find a long table, rather than a conventional reception desk, that pulls double-duty for client meetings and ad hoc displays of small samples. Cantilevered steel shelves and a glazed slot give the partition behind the desk the character of an abstract artwork. As many as a dozen people may be working within the central enclosure behind the reception desk, immersing visitors immediately into the beating heart of the workplace. The centrality is emphasized by a biomorphic cut in the soffit exposing white-painted service ducts above. The architects liken this revelation to the assemblages of Louise Nevelson, who put found objects in open box structures and then painted contents and container a matte black. Elsewhere, the ductwork is partially concealed by acoustic panels, and lighting is recessed into slots in the soffit or concealed around its edges. Sample panels can be displayed on tilted walls, and the entire interior is conceived as a blank canvas for the employees to animate.
Aside from the president’s office, which occupies a corner, the workspace feels non-hierarchical with its transparency and open center. Everything flows together fluidly. “The workers in the core have a higher quality build out than the private offices,” notes Felderman. “We believe amenities should be evenly shared.” To achieve a high level of sustainability, the architects specified locally sourced materials, including renewable woods, and a felt-like carpet made from recycled plastic bottles, alternating with the raw concrete floor slab.