Framestore (www.framestore.com) is an Oscar-winning visual effects company that uses innovative talent and technology to create hi-end images for multi-media. You may have seen their commercials, such as Pepsi Beyonce’s “Mirrors,” or the series of spots they created for Captain Morgan and Dr. Dre’s “Beats.”
With many companies in the VFX industry recently flocking to other states or overseas, Framestore is blazing a trail with its expansion to LA – a city that the company says will offer a bevy of opportunity for commercial work.
Framestore’s Los Angeles office is the fourth cornerstone of its transatlantic business, which already has offices in London, New York, and Montreal. The space is a specially designed and ultra spacious studio in Culver City that features beautiful, open/multi-level workspaces meant to inspire awe and creativity.
It includes paned glass walls, hardwood floors, open staircases, visible bright yellow beams, simplistically furnished lounge areas, and a high-end marble and wood kitchen – all exuding a modern-yet-homey elegance. The space also has state-of-the-art production suites, studios, and design suites incorporating all of the latest technologies.
We asked Jon Collins to tell us about the design of Framestore’s new LA space.
Q: What were the explicit performance goals of the space?
The new space had to satisfy a number of requirements. Firstly, it needed to be visually distinctive. This is what we demand of every piece of work that we produce, and the new office had to reflect that. Then, it needed to function as a space in which we produce work.
This sounds obvious, but it’s not as straightforward as it appears, because the kind of projects that we work on today are a lot more diverse than ever before.
So the space needs to allow for teams of VFX artists working on commercials, developers writing code for installations, designers developing concepts for web series and, of course, other projects that we haven’t even thought of yet.
The office also has to have an energy flow that aids creativity and communication, and one that also works as a second home to staff and clients. As with our other offices in London, New York, and Montreal, we wanted the LA office to have a connection to the Framestore brand but also the look and feel of its geographical location.
Q: How does the design meet or exceed these goals?
I used David Howell as my designer, as I had done for Framestore’s New York office. David has an understanding of how to evolve our branding to give a refreshing twist for the LA office. When you walk through the front door, you feel like you’re in Framestore. If you were to put the four locations side by side, they would all look different, but they are all very much a part of the same family.
Based on my initial layout, David worked with RAC on the build. We knew that there had to be dedicated project rooms but also open space areas flexible enough to deal with fluctuating team sizes and equipment demands. Moreover, the office needed to feel both spacious and intimate. We also consulted our NY Engineer and Feng Shui Master, Harry Chung, who ran his eye over several sets of designs and layouts. Fortunately, the one that he favored was based on my initial layout.
Q: What does the end-client have to say about the new space?
The flow of the office is very much built around the tower, and I wanted this to be the focal piece as people entered the building. The walls that we put up alongside the client suites direct your eyes immediately to the tower, as does the yellow of the girders.
The corridor leading from the front door to the tower creates an impression of space and light even as you enter the building. As the main thoroughfare, it also lends some energy to the area. Everyone who has visited the office has remarked on the amount of space. I have also allowed for the fact that we may need to box in more of the open space as we evolve and have planned accordingly for that, too.
Q: What were the unique aspects of this project that the design team particularly enjoyed or found challenging (and how did it overcome these challenges)?
The most striking feature of the office is the tower, both from outside and from within. It was originally built in order to hang swathes of fabric used to cover airplane seats and spray them with a flame-resistant solution. Remarkably, they survived for more than sixty years, and it was great fun to think of what we might do with the tower.
One of my major design aesthetics was to try to keep the integrity of the tower so that from the ‘pit’ — the sunken floor of the tower — you would be able to see the roof and feel like you are part of that space. However, we also wanted to use the tower to house a meeting room on one floor and an inside/outside deck on another.
This was a challenge that we finally met by ‘hanging’ the meeting room so that two of the sides are not connected to the walls of the tower. Of course, equally challenging was the fact that the tower needed to be almost completely reconstructed in order to comply with code. We were offered the chance to demolish it — I don’t think we needed to reply. The look on our faces was enough.