By Jim Cook
Our buildings reflect our society, and as technology and other trends blur the traditional lines between work and home, the spaces where we live, work and play mirror these changes. Masonry often performs a big role in these multi-use facilities, creating a sense of place and setting a tone for these buildings and the spaces within them.
Challenges of the Concept
The Live/Work/Play concept challenges developers to think holistically and create areas where people can strike a work/life balance in one location. Architects and builders are embracing this ethos in their designs, creating business spaces that incorporate elements of the hospitality industry, and home and lodging spaces that provide areas conducive to work, productivity and commerce.
Architectural firm Mark Cavagnero Associates is located in San Francisco, and its principal, Mark Cavagnero, has watched the Live/Work/Play trend gather steam as the demands of the modern workplace have workers spending more time at their jobs. Cavagnero says business clients now want to offer social spaces and better recreation and wellness options while also offering casual work environments that improve productivity by making employees comfortable.
“It allows your workday environment to simulate a normal, healthy life,” Cavagnero says. “This allows the opportunity for people to have a fuller day.”
Cavagnero’s firm designed a renovation of a large warehouse in San Francisco for Chronicle Books. The redesign of the building took the tenets of Live/Work/Play to heart, adding areas for informal gatherings and social outings while incorporating wide-open floorspace and just a small number of private offices to energize employees and foster an environment of collaboration.
The Live/Work/Play concept poses some challenges to architects and builders. For example, designing workplaces with areas for socialization and recreation can require architects to ensure the noise and hub-bub these spaces generate don’t create distractions in spaces where workers need to be able to focus.
Cavagnero says he has tackled this problem in some projects by using certain spaces as buffers between the more social portions of a building and areas where quiet is needed. Cavagnero says that by placing meeting and conference rooms between social and recreational areas and more work-focused portions of a building, architects can ensure a good balance between the competing needs of the Live, Work, Play concept.
“When someone wants the noise and the energy they can get it, but when they don’t want to be subjected to it, they can get away from it,” he says.
Cavagnero says that he often uses masonry in mixed-use projects because of its durability, capacity for acoustic filtering, and its ability to provide visual context for buildings and areas within them. Cavagnero says various areas of the country have specific masonry materials associated with many local buildings. For example, in California, sandstone and limestone buildings are a familiar sight, while brick is more common in the Northeast.
“Masonry has a quality that feels permanent and restful,” he says. “I think masonry can naturally convey values. It can set a tone.”
Hotel Design Is Changing
Joseph Bradley is an architect based in Dothan, Ala., whose firm, Bradley, Schmidt, & Carn PLLC has designed many hotels throughout the state. Bradley says that he has seen a marked increase in demand for social working spaces in hotels, where people can work collaboratively. Bradley says there’s also a demand for larger lobbies and spaces where guests can socialize and network.
“Hotels have always catered to the business traveler,” he says. “That’s where they make their money.”
Andrew Rigie, executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, says, “Developers recognize that incorporating restaurants and aspects of hospitality into their properties gives them a cache and creates a desired experience, whether it’s to attract tenants seeking office space, other retailers, or hotels looking to book rooms to visitors and attract locals to eat and drink.”
With regard to masonry, Bradley says that modern hotel designs are making greater use of decorative masonry. While elaborate masonry has long been incorporated into hotel design, Bradley says improved technology has given designers a wider range of options they can use.
Live/Work/Play in Renovations
The Live/Work/Play concept isn’t just for new construction. In Haverhill, Mass., a city in the greater Boston metropolitan area, efforts to renovate historic downtown buildings into multi-use residential and commercial facilities have embraced the principles of Live/Work/Play.
RODE Architects designed a recently completed renovation of an old office supply building into JM Lofts, a multi-use building containing housing and retail space, including Battle Grounds Coffee Company, a gourmet coffee shop run by a former Navy SEAL.
Kevin Deabler, a principal at RODE Architects Inc., says mixed-use facilities that incorporate housing, work and retail elements and have generous spaces for socialization provide many urban residents with buildings that match the tempo of their busy lives.
RODE Architects is now gearing up for a similar project at a nearby building that once housed the Trattoria Al Forno restaurant at 87 Washington St. The new project will include retail and restaurant space on the ground floor and apartments on the second, third and fourth floors of the building.
Deabler says a major goal of the project is to integrate the building with its surroundings, including a sidewalk and alleys.
“We’re really trying to preserve the visibility of the street and the sidewalk environment,” Deabler says. “There’s a vitality there.”
Deabler also says that masonry is playing an important role in RODE Architects’ developments in Haverhill, allowing designers to create a very firm sense of place and local authenticity.
“Here in Boston, a lot of our identity is tied to brick,” he says. “We know brick to be a robust material and timeless. It connects you to the city.”
Deabler says one of the challenges unique to its Haverhill projects has been researching the masonry used in the construction of the historic buildings the firm is renovating and finding suitable replacements. The JM Lofts property and 87 Washington St. were both built in the late 1800s. Deabler says good relationships with vendors has been critical to finding the brick they’ve needed to maintain the historical authenticity of the buildings.
“We’ve been fortunate in that the masonry has been – for the most part – intact, and we’ve been able to find enough brick on hand,” he says. “We’ve worked hard to develop relationships with vendors, and we have a handful of good reps here.”
While Live/Work/Play environments help people cope with busy and demanding lifestyles, masonry used in these facilities helps to anchor them and provide a sense of place. Together, the flexibility provided by Live/Work/Play and the permanence provided by masonry create spaces that energize, encourage and comfort their guests.