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  • Catherine Holliss

Office Design: Our Advantage

Sander Architects loves design. Our mantra is that every one of our projects must reach a level of high design, design that might even approach art. We believe architecture can sculpt space at the same time as it can solve pragmatic problems.

Nothing makes this clearer than designing office space. Offices too often get the proverbial spit and polish—or paint and carpet—overhaul that fails to take any leap of imagination. Even the largest design firms can fall into the trap of solving the pragmatics of office space planning without addressing how that impacts the aesthetics.

We love to surprise our clients and present solutions that they had never () imagined. This is especially rewarding when working with creative clients, because they can truly grasp the leap that is possible with high design.


For example, in a recent case, a client asked us and a much larger national architecture firm, to figure out if a potential space would work for their needs. The other architects produced a space plan that demonstrated it was possible to shoehorn 100 employees into 50,000 square feet along with all of the support / client spaces necessary.

We took that same space and proposed creating an indoor/outdoor garden enclosed within curving glass walls to generate a connection to nature at the heart of the office. Around this were ranged individual offices, each one a 12-foot square bamboo volume with one glass wall that faced a view of the greenery.

We won the contract.

In this case, our David (versus Goliath) was victorious, thanks to imagination.

This is a rendering of the proposed space:


Another building that we explored had a magnificent 26-foot ceiling, the front wall floor-to-ceiling glass and a mezzanine that overlooked this bounty. The only catch: to squeeze all of the necessary offices into the space would create a rabbit warren of corridors that would destroy the incredible open feeling.

Our solution: to stack the offices in separate volumes 3-high along each of the side walls, leaving the central space with its soaring ceiling for the entrance and the gathering spaces.

In this open space, stadium seating to accommodate whole-office meetings of up to 100 people, cascades down one side of a glass-walled conference room, it’s roof a hang-out for laptop warriors.


The challenge of this space, which has mullioned windows reminiscent of an old New York warehouse was that, as soon as the space got subdivided into private offices, it would become a rabbit warren.

The solution was to switch the designated reception area to the one section that had a double-height ceiling and thereby create a main gathering space around an elegant, curved staircase with glass railings.

Stadium seating on one end of the entrance hall not only creates a space for informal gatherings and casual cross-fertilization among team members but it allows the entire company to gather in one space for all-office meetings.


Our client, working in the entertainment industry, had grown and spread out over four buildings, with three landlords, in the now-trendy neighborhood of Culver City. They loved their surroundings, a neighborhood with cool restaurants, hip coffee bars, art galleries and all of the other hallmarks of a district that has cache´. They just could not imagine a way to make the motley collection continue to work for them in a five-to-ten year plan but had decided to do minor interventions to at least make the office workable for the next year or two.

This is the kind of challenge we love!

The first few weeks were intensive studies of their existing floor plan with explorations to see what would happen, from making minor adjustments up to scraping the entire interior. This work started simply with pragmatics. It was necessary to understand the client, the way they used space and the adjacencies that supported their project teams.

On the second or third site visit Whitney Sander saw the solution in that kind of flash that keeps creative people in love with their jobs. He imagined a "bridge" over the parking that separates two of the buildings, creating an entrance worthy of a film studio. At the same time, this solution provides enough office space to accommodate a ten-year growth plan for the client and brings together all of the employees in one connected space. Even better, the client could move out of the fourth building across Washington Boulevard and gain substantial savings in rent.


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