Santa Monica, California
PROGRAM Headquarters for the interactive entertainment software industry’s leading publisher, including open and private offices, conference rooms, gaming areas, a screening room, an all-company assembly space, and a cafeteria
AREA 13,300 m² (143,000 sf)
STATUS Commenced 2011; completed Concept Design 2012; completed 2013
PERSONNEL David Anderson, Vincent Appel, Joshua Prince-Ramus, Shea Sabino, Alok Shetty, Andrew Weigand
CONSULTANTS Bureau Bas Smets, Buro Happold, Corey Greer, Lookinglass, Magnusson Klemencic, Triarch
Activision|Blizzard is currently headquartered in a late-seventies Santa Monica office building.
Design of the original building’s plan began as a donut with a good width for offices. However, the donut was then duplicated and rotated, resulting in a figure-8 layout with an ill-proportioned middle.
Moreover, the building was originally multi-tenant. As Activision|Blizzard grew, it annexed portions of the structure until it occupied the building’s entirety. Vestiges of the multi-tenant subdivisions remain, creating a confused working environment.
Within this existing structure, Activision|Blizzard aims to:
• Increase company collaboration, community, and happy accidents.
• Give back to its staff by resurrecting existing amenities—such as courtyards—and providing new amenities—such as a cafeteria, gaming areas, a screening room, and an all-company assembly space.
• Celebrate the company’s staff, the work they create, and their audience.
• Support Activision|Blizzard and Activision Publishing as separate entities and as a cohesive whole.
To achieve these goals and overcome the existing morass, the building is divided into a 3-floor perimeter “Machine” of offices that makes optimal use of the figure-8’s good dimensions, and a 4-floor central “Nucleus” of collective functions and circulation that more appropriately uses the figure-8’s awkwardly dimensioned center to stimulate intra-company synergy.
To improve efficiency and rigor of the perimeter Machine, all vestiges of multi-tenant occupation are eliminated and all collective spaces are aggregated, to subsequently form the collaborative Nucleus.
The entire current staff of 519—plus growth for 114 future employees—fit efficiently on Levels 1, 2, and 3 of the perimeter Machine alone. Large and extra-large offices are grouped in the plan’s corners to increase leadership synergy. Inefficient cubicles are replaced with efficient workstations that provide the same amount of work and storage space in 25% less area. Increased efficiency allows for the addition of collaborative desks and storage throughout the open workstations.
Workstations are organized in rows perpendicular to the private offices and courtyards, creating two unobstructed circulation raceways around the perimeter, myriad connections between raceways, and unobstructed views of the courtyards
Having accommodated all existing staff and their current office dimensions within the Machine, a collaborative Nucleus can be created that increases company collaboration, community, and happy accidents.
Due to the Machine’s efficiency, the existing collective programs can be enlarged and new amenities—such as a cafeteria, gaming areas, a screening room, and an all-company assembly space—can be added to the overall building. These collective programs are amalgamated into the figure-8’s middle to form the Nucleus.
Vertical circulation in the figure-8 is currently dispersed and movement across the plan is difficult. By reconstituting the redundant courtyard egress stairs located in the Nucleus, company cohesion and serendipitous interactions are further fostered.
The building’s structural constraints provide an opportunity for determining the Nucleus’ architectural solution. Following the 1994 Northridge earthquake, the structure circumscribing the figure-8’s middle was retrofitted to create a moment frame that laterally supports the building. The floor plates of this central area are an integral part of the moment frame; any cuts into them would compromise the entire structural system. Tearing out Levels 1, 2, and 3 within the moment frame and rebuilding them is therefore cheaper than adaptively reusing the existing floors.
Once the existing floor plates of the figure-8’s middle are removed, the new Nucleus must reinforce the moment frame by transferring loads in the North-South direction and supporting the columns from buckling in the East-West direction. The most direct way to do this is by providing stringers that connect the moment frame’s columns in an “N” configuration as well as along the sides of the courtyards.
While banal in plan, the stringers can be bent in section to efficiently transfer North-South lateral loads to the ground and provide freedom to solve the geometries of the circulation and program.
By aligning stringer bends with column intersections, the East-West columns of the moment frame are supported from buckling.
When topped with floor slabs, the stringers become “folded plates” that accommodate the Nucleus’ program and provide the necessary paths for direct circulation.
Combining the structural requirements with the program and circulation requirements makes a very clear set of rules for how the Nucleus should be determined.
Step 1: Place all enclosed collective program within a box on Level 2 of the figure-8’s middle, and make cuts along the stringer lines.
Step 2: Fold two side arms down to make circulatory connections to Level 1, and fold two side arms up to make circulatory connections to Level 3.
Step 3: Switch one side arm with a center arm to make a more grand entry condition on Level 1.
Step 4: Solidify the box’s roof to become a public “terrain” of unenclosed collective programs, and to complete the desired connections.
By doggedly exploring solutions to the project’s programmatic, circulatory, and structural constraints, a solution emerges that performs exceptionally well and whose rationality will be made explicit through its use, even though it is formally unexpected.
In addition to methodically solving the programmatic, circulatory, and structural requirements, this strategy defines a public realm on Levels 2 and 3 that improves connectivity within Activision Publishing, and a public realm on Level 1 for the entirety of Activision|Blizzard.
Activision Publishing “Terrain”
Green Light Room
Both courtyards, the cafeteria, and a gaming space are combined to create a single, large amenity for the entirety of Activision|Blizzard on the ground floor.
Mirror glass on three sides and low-E glass on the fourth side of each courtyard create an infinitely reflected “alternate reality” within the new Activision|Blizzard headquarters. Due to the semi-transparency of the low-E glass, the Nucleus still remains visible from Machine.
Image Credits: 1, 2, 10, 22, 23, 25: Luxigon; 20, 26: Radii