The architectural complex of the Caltrans District 7 Headquarters of the California transportation department has a 4-storey base onto which another block partly rests, giving a total building height of 13 floors. A large, multi-purpose urban square courses towards the dynamic architectural complex, which in turn comes out to meet the plaza. The jagged geometries of canopies, and mix of graphics, architecture and art are at one with a context synonymous with speed.
The building’s material language, structural elements, and the way the components are varied and co-ordinated all give a contemporary reading in terms of transformation.
The architecture is there to appear and denote, its single elements deliberately distorted or mutated - like the outer skin of the west façade that folds slightly into a canopy, or the public square that reaches into the building to become an internal loggia. Stage set and architecture here combine in the dynamic coloured light tubes. Designed together with artist Keith Sonnier, they mimic the ribbon of headlights on California’s freeways.
The number “100” on the west façade is not just a super-graphic; it is an emblem of the whole building in an environment reminiscent of Robert Venturi. With the juxtaposition of solid and empty, positive and negative shapes and volumes, the building dialogues with the plaza and internal open loggia. The effect is as intense as the famous Hollywood sign on the hill.
The ground floor level houses cultural, recreational and exhibition areas, conference halls, cafeterias, and commercial space. The offices are located on the upper floors. The taller building has a double skin whose perforated aluminium outer layer acts as a shield. The 4-storey base alternates glazing and fibre cement sheets in tone with the perforated panels above.
Natural and artificial light is a fundamental feature throughout.
The façade overlooking the plaza shifts depending on the sun’s angle and intensity. Appearing windowless and opaque at mid-day, the building transforms in appearance over time, becoming transparent by dusk. At night, the alternating red and blue lights combine with the large cantilevered light-bar on the north elevation running alongside one of the city’s major roads, turning the building into a vibrant urban landmark.
On the south façade, photovoltaic panels provide about 5% of the overall building’s energy requirement. On the same side, a fire escape blends particularly well with the rest of the building.
The office floor plans are non-hierarchical open-office layout, designed to improve office worker comfort and efficiency. Workspaces all enjoy the same light exposure regardless of rank, and each employee can arrange his own working area to personal taste. Window shades and air vents on exterior windows are manually operable.
Another important element of internal distribution is the “skip-stop” elevator system that opens onto centrally located stairwell lobbies on every third floor: a way of forcing people to use the stairs and encouraging productive social exchange.