Across the Burbank Media District, a commercial area just north of the Hollywood Sign, the headquarters of several world-renowned entertainment companies—most notably Aldo Rossi’s imposing Disney-ABC Television Group building and Michael Graves’ whimsical Team Disney Building—straddle the southern edges of their sprawling lots to vie for attention from the elevated position of the adjacent Ventura Freeway.
The Warner Bros. Headquarters, also known as Second Century, is leased to Warner Bros. by the Worthe Real Estate Group in collaboration with Stockbridge Real Estate Fund. It is the newest, shiniest addition to this concentration of media empires and serves as a commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the legendary film and entertainment studio (hence the Second Century moniker). Designed by Gehry Partners, the 800,000-square-foot project consists of a pair of office buildings, one seven-stories, the other nine, that faces the freeway at the southern edge of Warner Bros.’ Burbank Studios Lot as an arrangement of ceramic fritted glass facades that shimmer in the sunlight. It looks like a million bucks. Hundreds of millions, even.
Aerial view of the Second Century complex (1); the new headquarters of Warner Bros. are spread across a pair of glass-clad buildings rising seven- and nine-stories tall (2). Photos courtesy Worthe Real Estate Group
With the Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike, the Burbank Studios Lot was quiet during a recent tour. Jeff Worthe, president of Worthe Real Estate Group, candidly admitted that his firm has built plenty of lackluster buildings over the years but said, gesturing to the new headquarters buildings, that there are some rare exceptions to the rule of corporate development. Worthe has also commissioned Gehry Partners to design another exception: the equally alluring Ocean Avenue Project, a mixed-use development which was recently approved for construction in Santa Monica. “Jeff had always put architecture first,” said David Nam, a design partner at Gehry Partners. “Though he and Frank recognized it as a developer project, from the beginning the goal was to push the envelope on what a developer project could be.”
Conspicuously devoid of the iconic Warner Brothers crest logo, the exterior appears to be at odds with itself from select views across the studio lot. Engineered by Santa Monica–based Krismar Construction Company, the “earthquake pattern”—as Krismar’s vice president and senior vice president Emily Chang and Gary Morrison call the glass facade design—is contrasted by metal-clad facades fitted with narrow vertical windows. “We tried to capture the monumentality of golden-era Hollywood with the glass as well as the functionalist quality of its studio warehouses in the metal,” Heather Waters, project architect at Gehry Partners, explains. The surrounding landscaping was designed by OJB Landscape Architecture, which also furnished the third-floor walkway connecting the two office towers with luxuriant vegetation that screens the adjacent freeway and surrounding district from view.
The entire project spans 800,000 square feet with room to house nearly 5,000 employees. Photo courtesy Worthe Real Estate Group
While the exterior architecture was the product of a back-and-forth between Gehry Partners and Worthe, Warner Bros. commissioned NBBJ to design the majority of its interiors, planned to house nearly 5,000 employees. Subdued, upscale finishes and select HVAC exposures occupy the visual space in between colorful wall graphics, sculptures, and props that liberally pull from the studio’s vast body of work. And in place of cubicles, the majority of the floors host a continuous open space with breakout areas within floor-to-ceiling glass that provides copious natural light.