Text description provided by the architects. Lehrer Architects were challenged to create an efficient, yet pleasant, space for those employed in the Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Elections Operations Center. More-efficient storage space was also needed to house more than 1,200 pallets containing voting material and 5,000 new ballot reading and voter accessibility devices. Space was also allocated for the tax, birth, marriage, property, and death records for the County of Los Angeles, which are all stored here.
Beyond the warehouse workspace, 18,000 square feet were provided for administrative offices. Several cubicles for those on the main floor of the warehouse, a break room/kitchen, and restrooms were also designed. Constructing a safe, streamlined, welcoming, and flexible space for all employees—40 year-round, up to 600 during voting season—was key to the design plans.
This project was literally about housing the infrastructure of democracy, as the people who work in the Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Elections Operations Center handle, prepare and maintain the balloting equipment and materials used in every voting station throughout Los Angeles County.
Lehrer Architects tackled this design project by first reducing the projected expenses by 25 percent by taking the Development Commission’s original, awkward, over-budget plan and redesigning it to create an efficient, streamlined work place. The architects considered function, color, size, placement, and basic proportions in configuring a space that effected a positive change in how employees work.
The administrative offices, which have standard ceiling heights, consist of several cubicles designed in muted grays and slate blues. These offices open up to the huge scale of the once-gray, cavernous warehouse—a space mirroring the enormity of the work that goes on there.
Here in the warehouse was an opportunity to implement bright, bold colors—clearly contrasting the administrative area—and it proved to be a thrifty way of making large-scale change in the space. Bright reds, oranges, and greens energize the entire area, including the 12-foot-high divider walls placed in different areas of the warehouse. A bright-red wall leads into the space beyond the entrance and offices that front the building.
A critical architectural move was the use of mega-banner technology to give scale and intimacy to the huge warehouse. The architect envisioned large-scale banners that could display symbols or imagery. In a matter of creative funding, the clients worked with the Los Angeles County Arts Commission and the One Percent for Art Program to commission a local artist, UCLA Professor, Rebeca Mendez. The artist created a hanging banner measuring 15 feet wide and 132 feet long. Titled Tree by Tree, from Sea to Mountains, 2008, the panoramic sequence of photographs runs from the Pacific Ocean to the San Gabriel Mountains, showing trees, water, and sky, and turns the cavernous space into a more intimate-feeling spot. Another set of 9 nature-themed vertical banners were placed at the ends of the 30 foot height, 200 foot long stacks, creating a 35,000 square foot “room” in which most warehouse workers spend their day.
To make the towering pallet racks easy to use, the architect organized them in a serial fashion, placing them far enough apart to accommodate rolling staircase-type ladders used to reach documents on high shelves. A series of uniformly spaced wide orange stripes painted on the floor lead and direct workers to the stacks and connect to the individual banners hanging from the ends of the stacks, creating a symbiotic relationship between the two. The light orange background and similar nature-themed imagery of these banners act as a unifying factor for the entire warehouse space. The stripes, used in several places throughout the warehouse, including the restrooms, suggest a subtle flag motif.
When it comes time for workers to take a lunch break, they visit the employee café. It is the only completely enclosed and air-conditioned space on the warehouse floor. A simple plastic gymnasium curtain was used to enclose the bright green and gray café, keeping it temperate, comfortable and light-filled. That less costly curtain—which also uses stripes, but in a horizontal application—cut out the need for a dark ceiling, making the area much more open and inviting to employees.
Close collaboration among architect, artist, and owner made this bright, welcoming space of form and function possible.