Gehry Partners points to the icebergs of Warner Bros. headquarters
structural engineer: Jerry’s partners
location: Burbank, California
Completion date: 2023
In conjunction with the move of Warner Bros. Entertainment into its second century of operation Following its 100th anniversary in 2023, Gehry Partners has completed an 870,000-square-foot office complex in Burbank, California dubbed the “Second Century Project.” The office complex is roughly composed of two main volumes designed to simulate icebergs through a sloping curtain wall and ceramic cladding. The buildings are located along California’s Ventura Expressway on a parcel of land adjacent to Warner Bros. Studios, Burbank, the company’s main production facility for films and television. This area, bounded by the intersection of Olive Avenue and Alameda Street, is known as the Burbank Media District and is home to several major studio headquarters, including Walt Disney.
Previously, the area containing the office complex was home to NBC Studios, which moved its Los Angeles location to Universal City in 2014.
According to the project narrative from Gehry Partners, the project was designed with its appearance from the highway in mind. The elevations facing the highway are fully glazed, and the iceberg appearance against the landscape is intended to emulate the elaborate painted backdrops used in studios during the Golden Age of Hollywood.
The glacial metaphor runs through the overall mass of the complex, where elevations are slanted against each other to give the appearance of arching icebergs. The frosted white glass across the volumes reinforces the metaphor. The tilted curtain wall effect was achieved through minimal interventions in the standard system. Each panel was tilted by less than 10 degrees. “Although the individual movements are relatively small, the impact is significant because the interface is so long,” commented Megan Lloyd and David Nam, partners at the company.
Gehry Partners worked with New Hudson to coordinate the fabrication of the facade. Computer-generated building models and extensive cost analysis were used to optimize the curtain wall design and specifications.
Along the elevations facing the studio, glass was interspersed with stainless steel facades, formed by setbacks, slight cabling, and perforated windows that hinted at Los Angeles’ Art Deco design. The vertical elements are emphasized by receding horizontal spans, revealing metal piers that climb heights through the stark terrain. However, in typical Gehry fashion, the stainless steel structures eschew basic symmetry. Component sizes appear spaced apart from each other and are offset to ensure that the interface lacks a cohesive flat surface.
Balcony spaces above the setbacks of the steel volumes provide outdoor amenities for office workers. Likewise, a landscaped podium on the third floor connects the two main blocks of the complex, allowing open-air movement between the buildings.
Collaborative workspaces are located within glass volumes, while executive offices occupy spaces surrounded by stainless steel. The architects specified low-VOC materials within the interior spaces, and excluded chemical compounds that are on the Red List of Living Building Challenges. A ceramic glaze within the glass provides glare protection and mitigates solar heat gain and the possibility of bird strikes. Photovoltaic panels are installed on the roof of each building.
The office complex is located at the southern end of the site, and Gehry Partners has submitted a master plan for the rest of NBC’s former studio space, which amounts to about 1 million square feet of existing studio space. Warner Bros. plans to lease this space to multiple tenants.