Frederick Fisher and Partners Frederick Fisher and Partners

A Look Inside: Designing the Santa Monica City Hall East Building

FF&P worked with the City of Santa Monica to lead the design for the Santa Monica City Hall East building which opened on Earth Day 2020. The City aimed to consolidate its workforce that had been scattered in separate properties into one cohesive workspace connected to its historic Civic Center. FF&P, the City, and the rest of the design team achieved this through the addition of more than 50,000 square feet of open, interactive workspace connected directly to the historic City Hall that reflects a combination of our design ethos and the unique identity of the City of Santa Monica.

The original footprint for the 1939 City Hall was a major driver in the planning of City Hall East as an addition to the existing structure. FF&P sought to create a modern, forward-thinking atmosphere, while remaining sensitive to the historical and architectural context of the site. This addition, combined with the footprint of the original building, created a new central courtyard. This common outdoor space became the central focal point of the project and helped us define two distinct zones for the building interior: the Workspace Courtyard and the Shadow Space.

The Workspace Courtyard is made up of individual and private workspaces for city employees to connect to the outdoors – infusing the natural elements into the space with operable windows for cross ventilation and natural light. In this way, we sought to blur the line between inside and outside and make the building’s open workspace an extension of the new central courtyard. The Shadow Space refers to the area in the new addition that sits in the shadow of the historic City Hall building. This was programmed with communal meeting and collaboration spaces. To make them more familiar and comfortable for the employees, the Shadow Space has a spirit of domesticity that is a hallmark of FF&P’s design ethos. The break areas feature comfortable furniture, artwork, and natural light, giving employees a place to feel at home while collaborating with each other.

Resilience and sustainability were key drivers for the entire City Hall East project. This 52,000 square foot building is the largest civic building of this size and density in the world to be designed to achieve the Living Building Challenge, the world’s most rigorous and comprehensive green building standard–producing more energy that it uses and generating zero waste. Resilience and sustainability were incorporated in the building’s interior materials and informed the look and feel of the entire design, including the interior finish palette that reflects the beauty of the City’s natural beach setting. We are proud of this environmental initiative that allowed us to combine our own passion for improving life through architecture with the City’s mission of fostering collaboration and innovation.