Mar 10, 2021

Designed with flexibility in mind, Arup’s new downtown Los Angeles office is ready to get back to work

By Samantha Schwirck

A few years ago, moving into a brand-new skyscraper in downtown Los Angeles seemed a perfectly sensible choice for Arup’s regional office, which had been located outside the city center in Playa Vista for more than a decade. Similar to the firm’s East-Coast move from Cambridge into downtown Boston, the new location would offer employees and clients better transportation and access.

“A lot of our clients are located downtown, so it seemed like the most logical solution at the time to be more centrally located and more connected,” says Liberty MacDougall, senior consultant at Arup, who was responsible for the lighting design in the new office, which opened in 2019 and spans across three floors and 66,000 sq ft of the 73-story Wilshire Grand Center. “It’s the tallest building west of the Mississippi, and it was a brand-new build,” MacDougall adds. “Since it was a shell space, that made it easier for construction because we didn’t have to demo anything.”

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While the coronavirus pandemic has kept the location’s 300 or so employees from using the office for the majority of 2020, key elements of the lighting design position the space for a strong comeback. “We wanted it to be as inclusive as possible, and to give the office as many options as possible, so there are tiny work rooms, bigger conference rooms, and one big open lounge area where people can go pretend they’re in a Starbucks,” MacDougall says. An extensive network of lighting control protocols—digitally addressable, 0-10-V, DMX and Bluetooth—enables maximum flexibility. “We have a lot of communal spaces so it’ll be interesting to see how we transform that and explore different options for people at a lesser capacity,” MacDougall adds.

Arup worked closely with Smith Group and Bestor Architects to ensure the lighting design serves users’ varying needs. In the open work areas, for example, lighting is entirely indirect. “For open workstations, there’s a big conversation happening about the proper amount of light and controlling glare, so we really focused on mitigating glare by using the ceiling as a luminaire itself,” MacDougall explains. The ceiling reflects light from tunable-white electric luminaires integrated into a custom light shelf spanning the southwestern interior façade.

“Our vision for the project was to take the WELL goal we had with our Boston office a step further by using daylight at a much more integrated level,” MacDougall explains. To that end, the fixtures integrated into the light shelf align light output with daylight’s spectral quality and intensity. When daylight levels decrease, a photosensor triggers the electric source to supplement for decreased daylight penetrating the space via the light shelf. “We have a beautiful view, and as the sun is going down, the electric lighting that goes on matches the color of daylight, coming on at 4000K or 5000K and going down as low as 2700K.”

All the luminaires in the open work areas are individually addressable through a CAT-5 ethernet connection and include multiple dual-channel LED drivers, providing separate control for both color temperature and intensity of light throughout the day. MacDougall credits the controls solution for enabling the designers to qualitatively balance and modulate the electric lighting sources with daylight, working to align more closely with employee wellbeing. “People will compliment the lighting but they don’t necessarily understand what they’re complimenting because you don’t walk into the space and see the light,” MacDougall adds. “It’s a very comfortable and inviting space for people to work in.”

Corridors are lit by indirect asymmetric linear pendants, but visible fixtures were kept to a minimum in other communal areas such as the lobby. “We kept a lot of the ceilings open because we really wanted to take advantage of the high ceiling height,” MacDougall says. “In the lobby especially, we wanted people to walk in and see the views, so we kept it like a raw shell space and played off a mid-century modern design aesthetic, with a really sleek glass handrail that goes down to the 19th floor.”

RGBW LED tape light integrated into the I-beams of the ceiling provides indirect illumination while maintaining the minimal aesthetic. “The tape light causes the whole space to glow for special events and provides an infinite number of possibilities because of the integrated color,” MacDougall says. “We also have a custom-designed low-resolution screen that we can stream video or static images to. During our opening party, we were feeding images of projects that we had worked on and projects in the area to the screen; the result was a continuum of familiarity that’s an art piece rather than a high-res screen.”

DMX control is utilized for the various color-changing luminaires integrated into the architectural design of the lobby and lounge, while decorative luminaires in communal areas are equipped with full-spectrum Bluetooth beacon enabled A-lamps. Control of the A-lamps is integrated into the DMX user interface through a carefully strategized network of contact-closure relays, allowing the end user to control everything from a single software application. In key areas like phone rooms, for example, users can adjust the color of light based on fluctuating needs throughout the day, opting for cool blue light during a mid-morning break or warm amber light when making a late afternoon phone call.

With high-end trim, full-range dimming and local user control, the controls were also instrumental in reducing energy consumption and operation costs, as the project targets LEED V4. “Despite having an entirely indirect lighting scheme we were still able to meet Title 24,” MacDougall adds. More importantly, the design provides a level of user interaction that’s ideal for future use. “Overall, it’s a very fluid and agile space that focuses on being as inclusive of change and dynamism as possible.” Ideal characteristics for the firm’s long-awaited return.

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Samantha Schwirck

Samantha Schwirck is Managing Editor for... More info »