Creating Connection Between Offices

Updated: Sep 16, 2019

Associate and Project Manager at VDLA, Brett Allen, discusses in more detail how this pocket office park for City Office REIT in Sorrento Valley creates connection between the three offices and some interesting design details and solutions are revealed!

The City Office REIT pocket office park offers connection between three Sorrento Valley offices.

What are the key factors that you consider when brainstorming the design for a project like this one?


The user-who are we building this project for, as well as the user input-when is the project used? We want to take into consideration what type of people will be using the space, and exactly what they will be using it for. This particular project was originally a large swath of asphalt fire lane between two buildings with no vegetated or pedestrian friendly connection linking the office spaces. We did an overall study to find out that emergency access around the site was sufficient and that this access point could be removed. The project was approved to use this fire lane as a central pocket park connecting the three office buildings on the site!


This project was originally a fire lane with no vegetated or pedestrian friendly connection between the buildings.

We developed the project knowing it would be for daytime use and business people so we first asked ourselves what happens in their day? What will they need or require of the site? They need a vendor to supply food and they probably have electronic devices that they will need to charge. Also, putting people outside requires furniture and shade. Due to its adjacency to an existing parking lot, it would require a visual and physical barrier. We buffered the site with vegetation and physical structures, like corten steel rustic panels, and used differences in elevation to help define the space and create the feeling of outdoor rooms.


An elevated deck helps define this space as an outdoor room where people can gather.


We buffered the site with vegetation, physical structure as well as differences in elevation.

Also to note, when you remove impermeable surfacing (hardscape) from a site and intend to replace it with impermeable surfacing, a treatment method is required for the storm runoff. In essence, you fall subject to new water quality regulations. For example, if we took out all of this asphalt and wanted to replace it with tiles or concrete we would have to catch and treat the water in a planted area or bio-swale. Our solution was to use all permeable hardscape materials like pavers, decomposed granite and synthetic turf to avoid the need to capture and treat runoff. This was an interesting component of this project that made it not only look good because the permeable pavers are stylish but also green because we are letting the water and air infiltrate right there on the soil-not sending it away for treatment.


Synthetic turf was used to allow the water to drain directly through the soil so that it wouldn't have to be sent for treatment.


Our solution was permeable pavers and decomposed granite as well as the synthetic turf.




Were there any key factors that were non-negotiable but hard to build into the landscape design for this project?


The ADA access became a little bit of an issue. We connected all of the buildings across the parking lot and to the center of this pocket office park. We looked at some materials early on which were supposed to be wooden planks, but the trouble with this was that it would have required an air gap because you can’t put the wood right into the soil. We needed it at a lower level so we maintained the original design intent by using brown concrete and creating score joints that made it resemble wooden planks. This also helps to delineate the connection-it’s a different material and pattern.

Brown concrete with lines cut to resemble wooden planks for the ADA access at the site.


What were the steps your team took in order to achieve the end-result the client wanted to see upon completion of the project?


The biggest step was working hand in hand with the contractor, BNBuilders. The existing trees were at different elevations than that which the new hardscape proposed and it was nice to work to solve problems such as this one on-site that came up during the construction process in real-time. Doing the construction administration is very important for all projects because we can solve problems and keep the design intent. We were able to keep 50% of these trees and for those that had to be removed we replaced in like kind with new trees. Also, all of the irrigation went from an overhead spray system and turf to low water plants and a drip system.


Low water use plants and drip irrigation were used.


What makes this project of special interest, or what makes it stand out against other projects that your team has worked on?


This project stands out for me because it is and active area, used and occupied daily by people for various activities. This will be a place where events occur, where food trucks come and people experience different foods, where people can have impromptu meetings out of the office with a client or with a friend. It will be a place where things happen whereas before it was a swatch of asphalt. It will now connect people from the three buildings on site. It will provide them an outdoor spot to enjoy the weather.


It will be a place where things happen whereas before it was a swath of asphalt.


What might you consider makes it special or unique?


In conjunction with FPBA we created some custom built in benches and a customized overhead shade structure which help to make the project unique. Also, the permeable paving which many people forego because it is more expensive. Additionally, the movable furniture makes it friendly for groups of users varying in size. Being able to move furniture to suit your needs allows people to feel more comfortable and at home in the environment vs. picnic tables or bolted down furniture pieces. It allows the project to work so much better when it can be adjusted to the users' needs.


A customized shade structure embellishes the site while being functional and providing shade.



What was the most interesting part of working on this project and why?


Working with FPBA on the details for the custom overhead structure and the built-in bench and raised planter walls. This provided a lot of interest. The planters, for example look like all metal when in reality they are concrete blocks with a metal façade. Money was saved in this way and we got the same exact look as if we had used a single piece of thick steel. Facing the blocks with the steel was a great way to get a high end look while keeping costs down.



What was the most challenging aspect of this project and how did you/the team overcome it? What solutions were presented?


The water treatment was by far the biggest challenge and we are very happy to have come up with the permeable paver solution that allowed us to forgo offsite treatment. Also, for the bollards we wanted to create something that was in keeping with the furnishings and overhead structure.

Steel, to match that of the overhead structure, keeps the design cohesive.

Our solution was to take the metal from the overhead structure and have them made vs. using those we were finding in catalogs that were not aligning with the look and feel we wanted. I drew what we wanted and BNBuilders had them constructed for us. The steel used on the overhead structure was the perfect metal to use, and they are very heavy duty-as bollards should be. A contemporary design was achieved, and they serve a function, allowing access to the lunch trucks and keeping the users safe.


This will be a place where events occur, where food trucks come and people experience different foods, where people can have impromptu meetings out of the office with a client or with a friend.


The movable furniture and elevated space help to make this a great place to gather out of the office, connecting people across three offices on this project site.


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