they experience these places. At a gut level, they’re
aware of the special qualities of these old buildings.”
In California, the architecture firm Marmol
Radziner “often develops the furnishings and
accessories for our projects,” according to Principal
Leo Marmol. That includes such adaptive reuse projects as the Palm Springs Art Museum Architecture
and Design Center, a part of the museum in a former
mid-century bank branch (E. Stewart Williams’ 1961
Santa Fe Federal Savings & Loan building), complete
with drive-up teller, now preserved as an artifact.
Serving as both architect and interior designer on
the project, Marmol says his firm “selected the finishes and advised the museum on the furnishings.
We restored some existing walnut cabinetry and
paneling, for example, and designed a reception desk
based on the original Williams’ bank teller counters.”
If the goal of some adaptive reuse is to create a
frisson between old and new, that wasn’t the case
here. On this project, Marmol says, “our interior
design decisions were all informed by our goal
to return the structure to its original beauty and
simplicity”—although for a purpose that Williams
never could have imagined.
Different goals were evident when global firm
Interior Architects (IA) was asked to design a
new space for the ad agency SapientNitro in Santa
Monica, California. IA had designed an office for the
agency in Atlanta in 2013; that collaboration went so
well that 14 more projects have followed. “We have
a global, on-call partnership with Sapient,” says
Alexandra Miller, an interior designer at IA who
has worked on all 15 of the collaborations.
Two of the projects have involved adaptive reuse—
one of a parking garage in Miami and the other of
a former warehouse building in Santa Monica.
The building had been turned into a warren of
offices before SapientNitro bought it. The IA team
(including then-Design Director Taylor Yarbrough)
largely gutted the space, which had 20-foot ceil-
ings. “We wanted to get that sense of volume,” says
Miller. Sheetrock came down, leaving exposed
wood beams, concrete floors, and bare concrete-
masonry-unit walls. When new rooms were needed,
they were designed as simple white boxes so as not
to compete with the original, more tactile materi-
als, she says. Where a more pronounced division
was required between work and play areas, the
designers added a partition built of reclaimed wood
planks, stacked horizontally.
Writable surfaces were created not by covering
up the masonry unit walls, but by hanging clear glass
about an inch in front of them. A garage door from
the building’s warehouse days became a connector
between a break area inside (complete with a pingpong table), and outdoor areas where employees
work and relax.
The old structure “gave us a set of volumes and
materials we never could have gotten in a traditional
class A office building,” says Miller. Those qualities
presented a great opportunity, she says, explaining:
“The people who work at Sapient are highly creative,
and a creative space like this really facilitates their
collaboration and brainstorming.”
And for the designers? For architect Jonathan
Marvel, one of the “greatest joys is to do something
new in a balancing act with something old.”
Fred A. Bernstein has degrees in architecture (from
Princeton University) and law (from New York University).
He writes about those subjects for many publications,
including Architectural Record, where he is a contributing
editor, and newspapers like The New York Times and The
Wall Street Journal. I M
The sheer volume of a former warehouse, as well as the clever use and repurposing of its materials and
finishes, make SapientNitro’s new offices in Santa Monica, California, ripe for collaboration and brainstorming.