Local marketing services company Underground Elephant sought visionary Southern California commercial and hospitality designer Paul Basile of BASILE Studio to transform the 22,021 square foot historic T.R. Produce warehouse in East Village into a striking office environment for 120 employees. At the core of the “it takes a village” design concept, Basile custom designed and fabricated each component within the space to create an environment where employees draw inspiration and cultivate new ideas.
Inside the cavernous warehouse, Basile created a series of unique spaces devoted to fostering a community-driven ethos. Upon entry, employees immediately step into the ‘town plaza’ where five, century-old hand-selected olive tree are planted in the central area. During the day, the trees provide a shaded canopy from the natural light filtering in from the solar tubes, while at night the space is lit by custom steel street lamps, inspired by San Fransisco’s Golden Gate Bridge Lights. Just beyond the plaza, the ringing sound from the in-house bell tower initiates a ‘town hall’ meeting scheduled to take place in the prairie-inspired schoolhouse located within the building. Intended to create a community space for career fairs, meetings, and events, the schoolhouse was erected with wood salvaged from Sierra Mountains pine trees and features 15-foot tall steel doors with a vintage 1923 iron chandelier hanging from the top of the 1,300 square-foot structure.
Smaller and more intimate meetings are held in two separate conference rooms. These rooms feature warehouse-style windows and two, one-ton conference tables made from repurposed steel road plates pulled from the streets of downtown San Diego construction and supported with uniquely scarred timber. Higher level executive meetings are held in the ‘War Room’ located on the southwest corner of the office. Visible from the busy ballpark street, the War Room is exposed with floor-to-ceiling windows where the executives sit around a 1,200-pound “iron throne” conference table lit by a “Dr. Strangelove” inspired I-beam light sculpture. The CEO’s private office is situated on an elevated platform that overlooks the sprawling open-office space.
Mixing business and pleasure, Underground Elephant houses a sunken lounge where employees can take a break from the work day with coffee and beer supplied by local thirst quenchers, Ballast Point Brewing and Copa Vida coffee house. The sunken “living room” is lined with tables fashioned from reclaimed wood from a farm in Arkansas, as well as a 12-person communal table built from the tractor tread of a decommissioned CAT Excavator, in honor of the State of California’s effort to reduce high emissions from old equipment.
Photos by Zack Benson / ZackBenson.com