Art in Architecture
Looking through recent, impactful projects IA has delivered, we set out to ask the design minds behind these projects about their use of art —more specifically, how art plays a role in the design of workplaces, and why including paintings, sculptures, murals, and other art mediums in these locations is so important.
Scroll down to view the gallery we've created, and see the quotes from our team members about their reasons for using the artwork they selected (as indicated by the directional arrows).
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Enjoy! And if you have any comments or questions relating to any of the projects you learn about below, be sure to share them with us on social media!
We say that Space + Spirit = Place”, and the right art pieces can contribute greatly to the “Spirit” part of that equation." - IA's David Kutsunai
The Utility of the Interconnecting Stair
There aren’t many situations in which we at IA claim to be old-fashioned. We pride ourselves on being on the leading edge of interior design and architecture, yet often find that in our very progressive approach to a given project, we are regularly inspired by a historic—you might say antique—design element.
Gone are the days when palaces are built anew and ballrooms are a standard amenity, yet year after year our team of architects and designers finds itself rethinking a very old concept – that of the grand staircase. And while we do not compare our work to the Schloss Augustusburg Staircase, the Stairway of the Opéra Garnier, or the Jordan Staircase, we do pride ourselves on continuing the tradition of making what might be considered the most utilitarian of design elements a centerpiece of the space it inhabits. As architects, designers and strategists, we consider interconnecting stairs to be inherently practical; there are a host of uses for which this design element is an advantageous solution.
“We Need to Increase Collaboration”
When paired with a thoughtful design strategy, a staircase can be more than a way of connecting two physical spaces. At the offices of RedHat it became a way to ensure interconnectivity – to purposefully make sure that employees from different departments were exposed to different ideas and had a larger sense of community. By purposefully arranging other rooms and offices, the use of this area was guaranteed. Going one step further, the IA team made the decision to laterally extend the last few stairs, effectively doubling the utility of the stairs to include a conveniently located casual meeting space.
“Mobility and activity is a part of our mission statement – we want this to be apparent in our space”
Sometimes “active” is literally a part of an organization’s name (as we found out when designing stairs for Active Network in Dallas), and other times it is simply an important part of the company culture. As we discuss in a blog post on the topic of Active Design, stairs can be an important contributor to such a philosophy. One need look no further than our own IA San Francisco team’s Ultimate Super Stair Challenge to see how a well-designed staircase can define an organization’s level of activity.
“We need our entry to make a statement”
At the above client’s offices, interconnectivity was an integral part of their mission, and this degree of connectivity needed to be presentable as well as functional. IA was careful to make sure that welcoming wooden risers and treads were paired with strong, metal, curvilinear balustrades, in effect communicating the welcoming nature of the organization while simultaneously portraying the team’s dedication to its mission statement.
“We want our space to be bright, and anything but dull”
These bright, well-lit, interconnecting stairs that invite movement also contribute to wellness. In addition to providing access from one point to another, stairs can offer employees the perfect opportunity for a healthy escape from their computer screens and provide a convenient access to views, Vitamin D, fresh air (if outside), or simply an even distribution of electric light. Such details can turn a simple trip from one side of the office to another into a chance to change environments and reconnect with the world outside one’s individual work space or even outside the office, which affects employee wellness positively.
“We need more space”
Perhaps most importantly, stairs in the most literal sense allow organizations to expand their space vertically and in comparatively small measured steps. When an organization is forced to address projected growth, the option to expand its space either up or down one floor can provide a team with added flexibility. Well-placed and well-designed interconnecting stairs leading to additional new space allows clients to forego the obstacles encountered when opening a second office, relocating the office entirely, or leasing or purchasing additional space.
Interconnecting stairs can be used to solve a whole host of practical concerns, from employee wellness to simply making a statement.
Project Files: Bacardi, Barcelona
In 1864, when two brothers from Catalonia, Spain, bought a tin-roof distillery in Cuba to commercially pursue a pioneering rum-making technique, fruit bats were nesting in the rafters. A symbol of good health, good fortune, and family unity according to Cuban and Catalonian lore, the bat became the logo that launched the Bacardi brand. In 1910, the opening of a second distillery in Barcelona made Bacardi the first multinational company in Cuba. More distilleries and a series of acquisitions followed. Today, still family-owned, Bacardi is the largest privately-held spirits company in the world.
At the new Barcelona office, IA’s design pays homage to the company’s heritage and calls out each of the company’s five brands with a distinctive space—the Bacardi Bar, Dewar’s Library, the Martini Espresso Bar Lounge, and the Gray Goose and Bombay Sapphire meeting rooms. Seamlessly incorporating five distinctive brands into the single-floor workspace was challenging, but IA’s experience designing Bacardi’s London office and close work with client teams to craft the brand expression smoothed the way. Bacardi’s classic, signature artwork, adapted for bespoke solutions, is seen across tiles, fabrics, and wall coverings.
Located on a diagonal road, the building and its façade, as well as the floor plate, have angled walls that IA’s design reference to full advantage. Within the workspace, strategically placed arched portals—some of them also angled—lead from one area to another, opening to a different view and ambience for an element of surprise. The diagonal lines of timber floors perpendicular to the façade and carpeting with diagonal strips provide further emphasis and interest.
The design tells the Bacardi story. Materials, provided by local suppliers, reference different highlights on the Bacardi timeline—behind the fully-stocked bar, wallpaper for Cuba; metro tiles for Italy and Martini and Rossi; Gaudi tiles, Miro-style pendant lights, and timber floors for Barcelona. A dedicated story wall adds annotation.
A variety of formal and informal meeting environments host groups of all sizes and accommodate work-style preferences. In one area, seat steps are an option for informal meetings or as an alternative workspace. For large groups, via a folding glass curtain wall, the Bacardi Bar and the Bombay Sapphire Room can be merged. With the goals of working smarter, driving innovation, and enriching the Bacardi workplace experience for 170 staff, as well as hosting clients, partners, and international colleagues, the project also targeted and achieved WELL certification.
"The rich heritage of the Bacardi brand and the fact that we were working in Barcelona so near to Catalonia took us back to the company’s roots and presented a unique variety of engaging design opportunities,” says IA Project Manager Ilaria Pamigiani.
Want to learn more?
View the case study to see additional photography, project highlights, and an in-depth description of IA's involvement.
The largest privately-held spirits company in the word has its roots in Catalonia and new offices in nearby Barcelona.