Pugh + Scarpa and Lorcan O'Herlihy score a joint commission for Youbet.com's headquarters in California
Monica Geran -- Interior Design, 10/1/2002 12:00:00 AM
They'd been friends for many years. But Lawrence Scarpa, partner of Pugh + Scarpa Architecture, and Lorcan O'Herlihy, namesake of his own architecture firm, never had the chance to collaborate. Then Youbet.com hired the Los Angeles duo to design a new headquarters. The client company, an interactive horse-racing Web site, provides instantaneous results and statistical information sought by bettors the world over. And all this was to be done from a 35,000-square-foot single-story building in Woodland Hills, California.
Because the building had been abandoned for several years when Scarpa and O'Herlihy arrived, they treated it to a gut renovation. For starters, the work uncovered an original exposed-wood ceiling, consequently raising the spatial reach from about 9 to 15 feet. All other remnants of prior occupancy were removed save for dents in the concrete floor; the scarred surface was simply sealed with clear polyurethane to immortalize the dubious heritage.
On this industrial foundation, the architects built a concatenation of operational centers and work spaces for 190 employees: 20 private offices, 110 open workstations, a service core, a boardroom, meeting areas, lounge facilities with a café, etc. The architects liken Youbet.com's layout to the centralized plan of a medieval walled city. Communal zones are situated at the center of the floor plate, while the continuous perimeter holds corporate divisions: executive management, software development, research, and more.
Leaving the Middle Ages and entering the information age, Scarpa and O'Herlihy speak of the different gathering places scattered throughout the headquarters as "freestanding sculpture," and they describe the boardroom, enclosed by Profilit channel glass, as a "rationalist box." A conical meeting room is wrapped in a mantle of tube steel and plaster.
A communal work and lounge area is defined by heat-curved, 11/4-inch-thick panels of acrylic backlit and fastened to the wall. With the use of translucent materials and an open plan, the architects eliminated obstructions to daylight, which flows through perimeter windows supplemented by 30 skylights.
Technology plays an important role as well. The perimeter loop is defined by architectural soffits supporting cable trays that neatly accommodate the requisite miles of wiring. Anchored on the roof, 10 satellite dishes add to the arsenal of devices needed for the live coverage of race events.
The heart of Youbet.com is the service core, consisting of separate but interconnected sectors. Twenty-odd specialists work in this area, in offices just outside a carefully guarded sanctum sanctorum devoted to data banks, equipment staging for testing new electronics, research, and horse-race tracking. As Youbet.com's market leadership depends on proprietary information, the core is off-limits to visitors; an electronically encoded entry card is required to pass the security desk. What the visitor may never know is that the attending guard can, by remote control, lock one, some, or all doors on the route ahead.