» Challenge When Moody's, a Manhattan-based investment firm, acquired KMV, a San Francisco-based credit-risk-management technology company, it needed a headquarters capable of integrating the two corporate cultures and an increased number of employees. The building-at 405 Howard Street in Foundry Square, San Francisco's dot-com neighborhood-boasts one of the city's largest floor plates, and easily houses the merged staff. While this arrangement eliminated the difficulty of circulating employees throughout stacked levels, it posed the problem of dividing the expansive office in a clear, meaningful way. 'We had to organize the program elements so they were conducive to workflow, as well as to public interaction,' says Sascha Wagner, a project architect with Huntsman, the design firm on the job.

Architectural and Lighting Solution To add coherence to this single third-floor level, a series of urban planning concepts was employed. A large central atrium that pierces the third through tenth floors of the ten-story building became the 'Town Square,' around which the mailroom, copy rooms, visitors' lounge, and public areas are arranged. Intersecting the Square is 'Main Street,' a large hallway off of which are conference rooms, a cafeteria, and a break room. Main Street also leads to the 'Neighborhoods,' open workstations situated against the building's exterior walls.

Lighting played an important role in making this arrangement work. 'We used a combination of lighting and materials to establish wayfinding,' says Wagner, 'illuminating important areas with intensity and the rest of the spaces diffusely.'

The entry sequence is the first example of this approach. Lit with recessed cove fixtures and AR111 lamps, the elevator lobby is a simple white box, with one exception: the company signage-a blue glowing frosted-glass panel, backlit with 28W T5 fluorescent strips. The real lure, however, is the decorative 48-inch-diameter cherry-wood chandelier hanging in the adjacent reception area, outfitted with 150W incandescent lamps. This draws visitors into the Town Square, illuminated with natural light by day, and by square recessed downlights lamped with compact fluorescents by night.

From the reception area, visitors are led to Main Street by other eye-catching elements: Walnut flooring gives way to random-striped carpeting in the thoroughfare, and two walls, one with green tiles and another with a painting, brilliantly lit with 75W PAR30 wallwashers, function as the primary wayfinding devices.

Combining elements of architectural interest with greater light intensities was a technique put to work throughout the headquarters. The designers opened up the ceilings to optimize the airy feeling of the space. Unassuming 28W T5HO linear indirect pendants set on dimmers provide illumination in the office areas. A custom polycarbonate box along the ceiling, holding 28W T5 fluorescent strips, washes the glass panels enclosing the adjacent private offices.

Moody's success showcases a rich design accomplished with simple means. By highlighting important areas with an architectural gesture and light, Huntsman both aided circulation across an expansive floor plate, and imbued an otherwise confusing space with intuitive logic. aaron seward


project | Moody's KMV Offices, San Francisco
design team | Huntsman Architectural Group, San Francisco (architecture and lighting)
photographer | David Wakely, San Francisco
project size | 58,300 square feet
manufacturers | Erco, Indy Lighting, Lampa, Lithonia, Peerlite, Prescolite