May 08, 2015

A Sandbox of the Future

KieranTimberlake's new studio was once the bottling house of Ortlieb's Brewing Company in Northern Liberties, Philadelphia.

Architect, professor and writer Witold Rybczynski describes the new KieranTimberlake studio as a "model of 21st century office space" in an article in Architect magazine. Rybczynski visited the office in April and interviewed founding partner Stephen Kieran and researcher Roderick Bates.  
Rybczynski says the new office is not a showpiece but a hands-on workplace—whose glassed-in fabrication shop is the first view that greets visitors entering the building. The article draws on studies of workplace psychology and human comfort, mentioning the natural light and fresh air that are key features of this renovated industrial building, as well as the flexibility for employees to make choices about their workspace by moving desks and reconfiguring spaces.  
The new studio's sustainability attributes include a cooling strategy that foregoes air conditioning in favor of opening windows in the monitor, using exhaust fans, supplying night-cooled air via the floor plenum, and dehumidifying the air. Rybczynski describes this as a "daring experiment" during a Philadelphia summer—one that involves 400 temperature and humidity sensors embedded in the building and regular surveys of KieranTimberlake's 100-person staff regarding their comfort levels.

KieranTimberlake's New Sandbox

by Witold Rybczynski 

It's always revealing when architects design their own offices. Norman Foster, Hon. FAIA's vast glass-walled London studio overlooking the Thames signals teamwork and stylish competency. Renzo Piano, Hon. FAIA's terraced hillside greenhouse complex in Genoa is both technically advanced and leafily romantic. Frank Gehry, FAIA's industrial shed in Santa Monica is messily disorganized—in an arty way. 
Stephen Kieran, FAIA, and James Timberlake, FAIA's new office is situated in Northern Liberties, a gritty Philadelphia neighborhood that, in an earlier age, was home to factories, mills, tanneries, foundries, and breweries—an unexpected setting for an architecture firm. But in this case a fitting one, because their office is not a showpiece but a hands-on workplace—purposeful, flexible, open-ended. Kieran calls it “our huge sandbox.”

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