A sculptural gateway to social exchange, the Corten Ribbon along with other renovations by Form4 Architecture breathe new life into a half-century old commercial structure
Designed to modernise and reinvigorate a 50-year-old commercial office building in Walnut Creek, California, the Corten Ribbon envisaged by Form4 Architecture provides an iconic entrance as a structural installation made from weathering steel. The San Francisco-based studio was also responsible for the architectural renovation and interiors of a 24,000 sq ft two-storey community building that is part of the commercial office complex. Within this community building, the architects designed a cafe, five new conference rooms, a reception lounge/collaboration area, bike lockers, public restroom and a shower+locker facility on the ground floor.
Form4 Architecture’s mission was to maximise the 50-year-old building’s potential to be a bustling community space with a visually appealing social courtyard. To create a memorable entrance and a sense of enclosure, the team designed and engineered a sculptural gateway titled ‘The Ribbon’. Made from perforated Corten steel, this installation provides a new open-air circulation route that extends from the community building to the adjacent parking garage. Angular shards reminiscent of The Ribbon’s design concept echo throughout the floor plan and project—from outdoor seating and shaded structures to indoor ceiling coves and angled walls. Building amenities accommodate a diverse workforce and include a café, restrooms and showers, lockers, bike storage, collaboration spaces and conference rooms of various sizes. The project is an excellent example of how a half-century old building can be revitalised through an imaginative approach that visually reconnects it to its neighbourhood using open-air circulation.
Background and Innovation
Built in the 1970s, the two-story, 24,000-square-foot office building is part of a complex comprising five detached office buildings and a central parking structure. Although the original office building was modularly efficient and technologically competent, it lacked a feeling of community at a fundamental level. Following the client’s directive to establish a sense of vibrancy to the otherwise standard corporate park, the design team fashioned trapezoidal forms of Corten steel into The Ribbon. The installation required the engineering team to develop a complex hanging system to make the structure’s placement possible. Through a balanced mix of light and heavy sections, solid Corten steel panels supplement perforated panels to create a floating effect. Structurally, the perforations minimise weight and allow for airflow.
Refurbishment and Social Space
Working with the existing conditions, the design team refreshed and streamlined out-of-date features such as the community building’s paint and guardrails. Next to the staircase, a metal bridge connecting the two buildings allows visitors to move between structures and acts as an archway hidden behind The Ribbon. The flexible linear courtyard serves as the social heart of the community and is furnished with movable and permanent seating. Benches and six freestanding shades emulate The Ribbon’s geometric forms and enable active social engagement at different times of the day and evening. Trees planted along the perimeter of the parking structure are expected to grow above the garage’s height and will establish a complete sense of enclosure within the social courtyard.
For the ground floor of the community building, a reception lounge and collaboration area were designed. These rooms are open to all tenants and can host a variety of groups and occasions. Angular, nonlinear corridors and cove ceiling lighting run throughout the ground floor and reference The Ribbon’s design concept. To accommodate diverse complex occupants with varying needs, Form4 incorporated amenities such as a bike storage zone and showers for cycling commuters and others who desire these facilities. A café with abundant indoor seating provides a social space for employees to rest and refuel.
Photo credit: John Sutton
Project: Corten Ribbon
Architects: Form4 Architecture, San Francisco
Landscape Architect: Environmental Foresight, Inc.
General Contractor: NOVO Construction
Mechanical Engineers: Pacific Northstar Mechanical, Western Allied Mechanical
Electrical Engineer: McMillan Electric
Plumbing Engineer: L.J. Kruse Company
Structural Engineer: KPFF Consulting Engineers
Civil Engineer: Kier + Wright
Acoustical Designer: Salter
Kitchen Consultant: Landmark Kitchen Design