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Commercial Real Estate | Form and Function

At DreamWorks Offices, Architecture Is for Art's Sake

June 09, 1998|BOB HOWARD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Artist Kevin Turcotte likes the north-facing window in his office at DreamWorks SKG's new building in Glendale because the northern exposure cuts down on direct light, creating conditions more favorable for painting backgrounds for the studio's animated features.

"Our office was specifically designed for artists," said Turcotte, who shares an office with fellow artist Tang Heng, painting backgrounds for DreamWorks' upcoming "Prince of Egypt," among other projects.

The artists' offices are definitely a case of form following function, according to Rob Vogel, project director for the new building and an architect by training.

Vogel said the offices of the artists and animators, designed by the Santa Monica firm of Gensler & Associates, are conducive to creativity because they are practical and comfortable.

"Part of what we did was unique in the animation industry in that the artists have private offices," Vogel said, explaining that animators traditionally work in large groups in open offices. The individual offices are arranged as a series of pods that open up onto what Vogel describes as "a sort of communal living room," with couches, coffee tables, overstuffed chairs and video-viewing equipment. The arrangement permits the artists and animators to work on their own portion of the project in their individual offices and then view tapes to review and discuss their work either individually or in group meetings, Vogel said.

Other design elements are oriented specifically toward the artists' and animators' tasks. They include special color-corrected custom light fixtures to ensure that computer screens reflect accurate shades of color, as well as special fixtures that direct light upward to the ceiling rather than directly onto screens, thus reducing glare. Long strips of railing are attached to the walls of the offices so that artists can hang paintings and storyboards without damaging the walls. "We bought miles and miles of that railing," Vogel said. Each of the offices also is wired with fiber optics so that artists and animators "can keep their offices up to date just by adding equipment, rather than having to move or have their offices rewired," Vogel said.

According to Turcotte, the overall office design allows artists to work in the type of environment they need for the task at hand. For example, while much of the art and animation are created on computers, the artists still spend a considerable amount of time painting backgrounds by hand. The hand-painted backgrounds are then digitized, or entered into the computer, to await the work of animators.

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