When it came to office space design, content creators Conscious Minds wanted an inspiring environment. They turned to design-build firm Domaen to create something both stimulating and functional.
BY: Cuyler Gibbons
IMAGES: Courtesy of Domaen
Conscious Minds, a creative content studio in Pasadena, tells stories in compelling words and images. They hold narrative sacred and believe, as their website states, that “Storytelling is the currency of human connection.” When the studio moved from their Old Pasadena, Center Court location, to East Villa Street, Founder Blake Heal and his partners Cameron DeArmond and Jonathon Green had some specific ideas about how they wanted their new space to look and function. They not only wanted a functionally creative location, but a space that would tell a story about the company it housed.
The day I was there (and the bearded and youthful Heal showed me around), the place hummed with a quiet, inventive vibe, with several young creatives spread casually around, happily interacting or working intently at various screens.
“We work really hard to create beautiful content,” says Heal. “When it came to the space, we wanted something we could really customize and make our own. And because we’re in a creative business, we wanted to really make a statement. But it also had to be functional. We wanted a physical representation of our ability to make something beautiful and crafted,” he explains.
To help facilitate this vision, Conscious Minds sought the help of design-build firm Domaen, and partner and lead designer Axel Schmitzberger, an Austrian-educated architectural engineer and a professor at Cal Poly Pomona. As Schmitzberger says, “I grew up in a modern tradition. Schindler, Neutra, this is basically my alma mater.” I wonder if that mid-century modern sensibility somehow helps connect him to the current trends in open floor plan office spaces, and their supposed ability to foster creativity? “Certainly,” says Schmitzberger, “open space tends to foster much more of a flat hierarchy, where the interaction is much more dynamic. But the idea of office space itself is changing drastically. In this case, we wanted some actual private space because everyone needs a desk where they can work, but we didn’t want to foster a cubicle attitude.” To that end, the offices have all been pushed to the perimeter and all are floor to ceiling glass providing some sonic separation while remaining visually part of the larger space.
Cubicle land this is not. The principals all had some experience in that environment and it was something they wanted to avoid. In fact, what they really wanted in Blake Heal’s succinct formulation was a “sense of wonder.” He elaborates, “We wanted this to look and feel like, ‘Whoa, they really thought about this!’ Which is just what we try to do with our content. Try to make stuff that’s like ‘Wow, that’s beautiful,’ it’s crafted, truly engaging, it’s not just passive.”
The space is anything but passive, with molded organic forms, colliding with knife hard edges, and the marriage of disparate materials across the space inviting exploration and constant reassessment. The open central interior is anchored at each end with a glass enclosed conference room that Schmitzberger describes as “literally folding out of the ceiling, with mixed material choices that played into a warmer vibe, but with multiple edges that ask you to guess or speculate at the construction.” The ultimate goal of the space was the same goal Heal ascribes to his company, that is, to “craft wonder.” Heal explains, “I think that’s a common ethos of everything we do. To make you curious and want to explore. I think that was definitely part of the brief to the architect. About creating that sense of when you walk in that you want to walk through it and see more.”
There is no doubt that Creative Minds and Domaen have together created a space that is not only unique, but a tremendous aesthetic and practical success. And to hear Heal tell it, Pasadena has played a part and the city and Creative Minds can look forward to a prosperous future together. As he says, “We’ve seen the success of JPL and Caltech all our lives. They attract all these cool tech companies to this area because they are such tremendous thought leaders. We’re definitely proud to try and add to that creatively. And there is no denying Pasadena’s growth potential. Particularly the north. That’s why we bought there. I really see things starting to move east and north. We definitely sense that energy.”