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February 4, 2014 > Takes from Silicon Valley East: This is NOT Mad Men: The Question of Hierarchical Space in FremontÕs Future Civic Center

Takes from Silicon Valley East: This is NOT Mad Men: The Question of Hierarchical Space in FremontÕs Future Civic Center

By Jason McCarthy, AIA, LEED AP, Associate Principal, STUDIOS architecture

On TVÕs ÒMad Men,Ó the 1960Õs office design is iconic for its period: once through the front door, layers of receptionists, secretaries and cigarette smoke all shield corner-office executives from visitors, colleagues and staff alike. The corner office is the epitome of hierarchical workplace design giving the position of authority and best light and views to a single individual. And as anyone who watches ÒMad MenÓ knows, both the social and physical hierarchy of that era allowed for all sorts of bad behavior in the workplace that make for great television today!

In todayÕs workplace however, the ÒMad MenÓ style of organization Ð along with the shots of whiskey before meetings Ð are thankfully in our distant past. Today, creative agencies, high-tech startups, and even established public entities, including the City of Fremont, all strive for a more collaborative paradigm, where the power of the community is championed over that of the individual.

At Studios, we often say that when buildings facilitate collaboration, you get: Ò1 + 1 = 3.Ó While architects are supposed to be good at math, our more important skill is designing buildings to enhance collaboration and strengthen a sense of community within an organization. Placement of various functions within a building, campus, or city, together with careful use of materiality, transparency, circulation, access to light, and views, all are tools used to increase social interaction and enhance community.

As the City of Fremont begins to contemplate its new Civic Center, it will be asking itself, ÒWhere do we place our front door? How can the Civic Center invite community interaction? What will our Civic Center say about governmentÕs role in the community?Ó To see how they answer, stay tuned!

Jason McCarthy is the AIA, Associate Principal at Studios Architecture. Studios Architecture, world-renowned for its design of collaborative corporate, civic, and educational architecture, is currently engaged with the City of Fremont to master-plan the new City of Fremont Civic Center at the corner of Capitol Avenue and Liberty Street.

To learn more about FremontÕs Plans for Downtown, including a new Civic Center, visit

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