Located in the Penn Quarter neighborhood of downtown Washington, D.C., the new office for DirecTV’s lobbyists in many ways reflects this satellite-service provider’s image in a tradition-bound city. It occupies 3,952 square feet on the sixth floor of a 21st-century building but looks south onto a skylit atrium it shares with an adjacent brick Masonic Temple built in 1869. On the north, it also enjoys expansive views of the National Portrait Gallery, an important Greek Revival landmark building dating back to 1842.
Previously, the company housed its small lobbying group in cramped, inadequate quarters. So when a corporate shift required the team of six to relocate, Susan Eid, senior vice president of government and regulatory affairs, tapped Huntsman Architectural Group to craft a more suitable environment. According to the director of design, Mark Harbick, his firm was asked to provide private spaces for intensive study and meetings, areas for staff collaboration and interaction, and flexible settings for gatherings and for showcasing DirecTV technology.
“We wanted to break down the typical barrier of office design and provide spaces that were more comfortable and inviting, less static and hierarchical,” Harbick explains. To do this, the architects devised an open plan featuring two distinct functional zones with clearly defined yet transparent boundaries: a public area that wraps around the atrium and a private office area on the north.
The entrance, a stainless-steel portal, directs visitors into the gracious reception lounge, the center of the public zone. Behind its stone-and-quartz desk, the architects created a graphic media wall to establish brand identity straightaway. Outfitted with a pair of flat-panel monitors, it is patterned with composite images of the bright blue DirecTV logo. To the west and south, respectively, of this main area, a boardroom and multipurpose conference room—both with pivoting walls—can be closed for privacy or left open for events and presentations. The former, set in a space between the curved atrium window bank and corresponding inner wall, features sweeping, open-weave drapes that flow into the lounge. The latter doubles as a “huddle room” for in-house powwows and an extra office for visiting company executives.
A light-refracting, clear acrylic screen signals one’s passage into the private zone that runs along the north windows. Here, handsomely appointed glass-fronted offices foster social interaction and allow daylight and views to be shared with adjacent spaces. An elegant, glass-tiled shower room in this wing lets staff prepare for evening functions. A well-equipped open pantry (backing up to the reception area and facing the offices across a wide corridor) bridges the two main zones and serves as a casual coffee bar and staging area for caterers.
According to project designer Suraj Bhatia, “We took a residential approach, so transitions are softer.” Reclaimed oak flooring flows beyond doorways, then segues into carpeting. A mix of 20th-century classic furnishings, in relaxed, eclectic groupings, balances Modern and traditional styles—a nod to the divergent worlds of a high-tech company and Capitol Hill. Ceiling planes vary, dropped to hide mechanical equipment and lighting, then canted up toward the northern exterior to clear the full-height windows and direct daylight inside. Aside from an inviting pendant in the pantry and Italian floor fixtures in the offices, the lighting is integrated into the architecture.
Ultimately, the Huntsman team created a fluid, contemporary office in touch with its work—and historic locale. “It is important to remind visitors that they are in the nation’s capital,” notes Harbick. “And that the business being conducted here is of national importance.”
Mark Harbick, AIA Design Principal
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