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Michael Holliday, principal at DesignARC in Santa Barbara, says companies want the space to be unique, reflect what the company does and the personality behind that. It has to go up fast and cheap. And no one knows where the company will be in six months, so it all has to be 100 percent flexible.
"The Internet as a medium has really compressed the timeframe as far as how long it takes to be up and running," Holliday said. High-tech companies are not looking to building a facility and have people in sometime in the next three to four years. Often companies want to be occupying it in the next three to four months.
DesignARC, an architecture and interior design firm, is located in what is called the funk zone of Santa Barbara. It is a chic upstairs suite in heavy industrial area of the Eastside. The office uses gunmetal gray curtains to separate offices from a conference room. The walls are coved in drywall mud with knife marks adding texture.
The general feeling is that the space could be stripped down and completely rearranged in less than a day. It is the ultimate in flexibility.
"We kind of like that fast-paced and energetic lifestyle," Holliday said. The customers give impossible deadlines and need a space that can be a second home for hardworking techies. The designers work with bright colors and interesting shapes to fend off the ineluctable boredom of writing code.
Giving people something new is the key, said T.R. Kilpelainen, interior director at DesignARC. "For me technology is always trying to give people something interesting and different," he said, and that is reflected in the designs for the spaces. "To make a space feel like technology you have to use new shapes and materials to make people break out of their everyday lives."
The Santa Barbara Technology Incubator was a kind of ultimate challenge. The incubator combines all kinds of high-tech companies. The time frame was just three months to change a warehouse into a hotbed of original thinking. And the whole thing needed to be done on a shoestring budget.
The DesignARC team worked on everything from structure to furniture, putting together bright walls of color with interchangeable Herman Miller Resolve System workstations. Open ceilings expose the beams and infrastructure of the building.
"I try to use materials in an uncommon way," Kilpelainen said. The team found a material used for greenhouses and used it at the incubator facility as a semitransparent covering for lights and the tops of walls. "You don't want to have old thinking; you want to have new thinking."
"For too long people have been spending way too much," Holliday said. Too much time and too much money are often poured into traditional office spaces. "You can do a lot more with a lot less."
To reflect the work that is going on at SBTi, Holliday said his firm used the translucent finishes, natural wood and exposed structure. He said showing the backbone of the building mimicked the way the companies are building the infrastructure of today's technology.
The new designs do not only reflect that the space is for work. These designers are trying to express what the people within those walls do. "It's presenting an image," Holliday said. "A big part of this is understanding what is unique about this company and then expressing it through the design."
When the Sares-Regis Group purchased an old Delco site in Goleta, DesignARC was brought on to redesign the interiors, said Sares-Regis Vice President Steve Fedde. JM Consulting, a company dealing in wireless communications, took one of the buildings. The company was trying to project a specific high-tech image, said Fedde, and "[DesignARC] helped them visualize what they were trying to achieve."
The businesses require the infrastructure of fiber optic Internet access, but they also wanted architecture that complements what they do. DesignARC was the company with specific background in high-tech workspace. "They took a building built in the '50s and transitioned it to one that is very effective in the new century," Fedde said.
The designs for Openwave Systems in Santa Barbara needed a mixture of traditional simplicity and technological savvy. DesignARC had already begun working with Software.com when the company merged with Phone.com to create Openwave. It has three facilities, including the newest, which has 80,000 square feet and is currently under construction.
Openwave is trying to plan for the next two or three years, but the business is changing so rapidly it is hard to say what will be going on in the building. "All the facilities need to work for anyone in the company," Holliday said. Each facility must be similar, without compromising the company's desire for an interesting space. "Their model is a very flexible, contemporary model that will work for almost anything they want to do."
The idea was similar for the JM Consulting redesign. "The most important thing is flexibility," Fedde said. "Things change so quickly both in the market and in the company that you want to maximize the flexibility of the space." For JM Consulting the design used a lot of open space to allow for changes in the size of the staff and the kind of work that is done.
DesignARC pulls together all of the elements that make an office work - building structure, interior design and furniture. "Our role as architects has really expanded," Holliday said. The firm produces all of the graphics and CAD designs in-house, and collaborates on all parts of the space. Walls of design books fill the office for the three interior designers. Holliday acts as project manager to make sure all the pieces come together.
"We've got some of the best architects in town, because they are really progressive," Holliday said. And on a tight deadline the resources of all 30 people in DesignARC's three offices can be pooled to come together quickly. "That's how we area able to meet these impossible deadlines, because we have two [other] offices that we can put on the project."