Address
Emeryville, California
Year Constructed
2000
Structural Engineering Firm(s)
Structural Engineer(s)
Architect(s)
Bohlin Cywinski Jackson
Main Contractor
DPR Construction
Media
John Lasseter Cars - Copy
"CARS 2"

BEHIND THE DESK (9:43 a.m.) – With hundreds of "Toy Story" toys looking on, Lasseter reviews a "Cars 2" trailer on his office computer.

Ph: Deborah Coleman

©Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.
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Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs
Significance to Structural Engineering History in Northern California

Pixar’s Emeryville, California headquarters is a company campus and building with spaces arranged to encourage human interaction and foster creativity. What makes Pixar’s office space special? The story behind Pixar’s headquarters starts in 1999 with Steve Jobs. As Pixar’s CEO, Jobs brought in Bohlin Cywinski Jackson Architects – famously known for designing Bill Gates Seattle, Washington residence, to translate Steve Jobs vision for the Pixar campus. The 220,000 sf main building was completed in 2000.

Pixar’s Emeryville studios, located on a 15-acre site in the city’s warehouse district, embodies the company’s culture of ideas exchange and collaboration among its many story artists, animators, and computer scientists. The project’s industrial aesthetic responds to both its physical context and the technical creativity of the company. Designed for a staff up to 1000, The two-story steel-and-masonry building has an expansive atrium at its core that acts as a central piazza for the campus. Activated by the lobby, conference rooms, lounges, and cafe, this dynamic town center links offices, pathways, and a formal 250-seat theater.

The facility is rigorously detailed and crafted with a palette of brick, sandblasted clear-coated structural steel, exposed wood decking, glass and stainless steel. These natural materials are used throughout the site and campus to maintain Pixar’s language, quality and culture. A collaborative workplace with expansive gathering areas and pathways for spontaneous interaction, Pixar’s Emeryville headquarters integrates light, volume, and technology to create a humane and interactive experience for Pixar staff.

According to Jobs’ recent biography, the headquarters was to be a place that “promoted encounters and unplanned collaborations.” Given that collaboration has recently been one of the major topics in office design, and that the late 90’s were filled with cubicle farms, his ideas were clearly ahead of the curve. Jobs also strived for a campus that stood the test of time. Tom Carlisle, Pixar’s facilities director adds that, “He didn’t want a standard office-park building—one with corrugated-metal siding or ribbon windows. The building had to look good 100 years from now. That was his main criterion.” The Atrium is not the only area where Jobs put in a lot of work. At the design stage, he knew that he wanted a space that felt like the Musée d’Orsay in Paris and he sought out the kinds of designs that are still recognized when times change. He was obsessed with the materials and colors used in the building.

Pixar’s campus design originally separated different employee disciplines into different buildings – one for computer scientists, another for animators, and a third building for everybody else. But because Jobs was fanatic about “unplanned collaborations”, he envisioned a campus where these encounters could take place, and his design included the great atrium space that acts as a central hub for the campus. The Jobs biography adds that Jobs believed that, “If a building doesn’t encourage [collaboration], you’ll lose a lot of innovation and the magic that’s sparked by serendipity. So, the building is designed to make people get out of their offices and mingle in the central atrium with people they might not otherwise see.”

The atrium houses a reception, employee mailboxes, cafe, foosball, fitness center, two 40-seat viewing rooms, and a large theater – and was planned by Jobs to house the campus’ only restrooms. The idea was that people who naturally isolate themselves would be forced to have great conversations, even if that took place while washing their hands. Today, they do have more than one restroom, of course. But it was the idea behind it that was important.

Brad Bird, director of The Incredible and Ratatouille, said of the space, “The atrium initially might seem like a waste of space…But Steve realized that when people run into each other, when they make eye contact, things happen.” And did it work? “Steve’s theory worked from day one,” said John Lasseter, Pixar’s chief creative officer “…I’ve never seen a building that promoted collaboration and creativity as well as this one.”
The 1999 Emeryville, California, Pixar Headquarters building structural system includes a bolted steel braced frames structure supported on a base isolated foundation. Steve Jobs demand for “his” aesthetic obsessions created another Steve Jobs Story and made the Pixar building a unique architecture, engineering and construction experience.

Steel brace connections to columns, beams and girders, are exposed to view and are articulated field bolted assemblies. Finished wood decking was integrated with floor and roof systems for appearance. Central atrium features a sawtooth roof and skylight, supported over triangular steel trusses. Two pedestrian bridges, cable suspended from the roof trusses, connect second floor of the east and west wings of the building. The bridge features include built-up & bolted girders, wood decking and rod bracing below the deck. The vision had been to build a circa 1920 building with the state of-the-art technologies (exposed steel frame structure with articulated braced frame system, all bolted together and erected over a base isolated steel framed platform platform).

The entire structural system and all connections had to pass the rigor of architectural concerns of
aesthetics. The Owner being in the business of developing the finest animation, believed in perfection. Such an extraordinary expectation could only be met by creating extensive mockups of rolled and built-up members, and their connections. These mock-ups served several critical purposes;

1. Helped end users physically observe the proposed exposed steel construction

2. Became basis for the design and the aesthetics

3. Source of refinements in architectural detail and design of exposed structure.

Jobs architecture and aesthetic issues of the E-W and N-S Braced Frames and Connections include:

1. Connections of brace to column and to girder, exposed to view, required built up gusset & stiffener assemblies to accommodate the effect of “horizontal embedded plate” into floor slab.

2. Multiple “pieces” and excessive connection material thickness created bolt alignment and fit-up concerns Considering bolt pattern alignment, hole pattern layout “creation” and minimal to no hole oversizing allowances,detail location and shop fabrication drilling locations were critical.

3. Bolt Head Orientation for Uniformity and Visual Impact: Direction of bolt incursion was required for visual effect throughout all braces. Bolting required symmetry overall throughout building. “Stitch bolting” was to be located throughout vertical bracing system to maintain consistent “elevation”of bolting patterns.

4. Uniform Projection Bolt Thread per Connection: “Stick thru” of all bolts was to be maintained. Each connection within itself however required an “exact/matching” stick thru condition shop bolted conditions, back to back vertical braces and field connections, had to be “matched” by the steel contractor.

In the center of the PIXAR Animation Studio is a 60’-0” wide, open entrance lobby with exposed triangular steel trusses and interior walkway bridges. Fifteen custom designed cambered, triangular steel trusses support the saw-tooth skylight framed roof and two interior walkway bridges. Numerous architectural features were incorporate into the structure for visual effects.

1. Jobs again insisted that “stick thru” of the bolts was critical due to architectural appearance. Too little stick thru and the architect would not accept it and too much stick thru and the contractor could not torque the opposite / opposing bolt

2. Material needed to be inspected for mill marks or other normal damage that occurs prior to fabrication.

3. Bolts had to be installed making sure that the details were followed to the letter.

4. Orientation of the bolts was a concern for the architectural appearance.

5. Any piece that reached the field and did not meet the architects approval was re-fabricated noting the concerns that the architect had with the original piece

Job’s Meticulous Eye for Detail was focused everywhere including the Atrium Steel Beams Steve Jobs is well-known for his meticulous eye for elegance and design when it comes to Apple’s products. But another area where this fanaticism for detail came out was with regard to the steel beams used in the construction of the Atrium. The Structural Engineers specified cold-rolled, bead-blasted steel. Jobs insisted that all connections are bolted, not welded, purely for the aesthetics.

Jobs biography adds more, “Because the building’s steel beams were going to be visible, Jobs pored over samples from manufacturers across the country to see which had the best color and texture. He chose a mill in Arkansas, told it to blast the steel to a pure color, and made sure the truckers used caution not to nick any of it.” And some additional investigation found that, “A field painter cleaned it again and applied a “clear coat” of paint to it. All of the bolts that were visible had round heads in lieu of hex heads to give the illusion of riveted connections. Rivets have not been used since the 1950′s. At one point in time Pixar asked that the round head of the bolt have the Pixar “ant” stamped into the head. They abandoned this idea due to cost.”

The Structural Engineer, Rutherford + Chekene worked with Bohlin Cywinski Jackson Architects, Steve Jobs, and Pixar leaders to create a 220,000 sf building that evokes the look of a converted warehouse with hand-laid brick exteriors and Jobs exposed bolted steel beams in the interior. The campus’ central building houses offices, a major server installation, a digital theater, sound rooms, screening rooms, a cafeteria to serve hundreds, and a recreation center. Due to the importance of meeting movie release dates, R+C and Pixar chose to include base isolators in the construction, to reduce earthquake damage risk, so Pixar could resume operations within 48 hours of a major seismic event.

Mark Saunders, Rutherford & Chekene [R&C] principal engineer tells a story about his interaction with Steve Jobs and Jobs focus on everything aesthetic. R&C had designed the Atrium roof structure with long span steel trusses and orthogonal steel bracing of the bottom chord of the trusses. This created an exposed atrium ceiling structure of longitudinal trusses with transverse steel cross braces. Steve Jobs “did not like the look” of this exposed roof framing. He instructed Mark to eliminate the transverse bracing. Mark came back and offered Steve a revised Atrium roof framing system…longitudinal triangular steel truss with two top chords and a single bottom chord with no transvere bracing. Steve liked this solution for his building, and this was engineered and constructed.

Another Steve Jobs story mentioned by R & C’s Walterio Lopez, S.E., was that Jobs wanted the ASTM A325 high strength bolts to have the Pixar desk lamp logo cast onto the head of each bolt. After the general contractor and steel subcontractor explained the “complications” in manufacture, testing, ASTM certification time and costs, Jobs decided this was too much to ask, spend and delay the construction so Jobs agreed, standard ASTM A325 bolts could be used.

Employee office spaces are a sight to be seen. Some employees work in small house huts, other share space, some stand up. John Lasseter’s office, Pixar’s creative leader, is filled to the brim with toys – clearly not your average executive office. Brad Bird notes, “If you walk around downstairs in the animation area, you’ll see that it is unhinged. People are allowed to create whatever entrance to their office they want. One guy might build a front that’s like a Western town. Someone else might do something that looks like Hawaii…John Lasseter – Pixar’s Chief Creative Officer believes that if you have a loose, free kind of atmosphere, it helps creativity.”

Steve Jobs’ office was described as being the cleanest office at Pixar – which from the looks of it houses a very minimally spaced set of Eames Plywood chairs, a Noguchi Table, a Razor scooter, and not much else. Elsewhere in the campus lie office chairs that originally were owned by Walt Disney Studios from the 30’s. Though the original plan called for a very mid-century modern aesthetic, utilizing classic design as well as rugs that were handwoven by Tibetans in Nepal.

The exterior campus includes a 600-seat outdoor amphitheater, a soccer field, and an organic vegetable garden used by Pixar’s chefs, flower cutting gardens and a wildflower meadow. And for both fun and fitness, they also have an olympic-sized swimming pool, volleyball court, jogging trail, and basketball court. As Jobs put it – these amenities were meant “to keep his young animation staff happy – and animated.”
In order to create the desired agrarian atmosphere, the exterior is filled with both native and exotic plants and trees – including European beech, live oak, palms, redwoods, Japanese maple, and cottonwood trees. The visitor entrance also boasts a series of beautiful rose gardens.

An interesting point of contention in the development of the campus came, oddly enough, over Pixar’s desire to fence in the property during the second phase of the campus. Why fence in the property? The company’s Director of Facilities explained, “We are a movie studio, and this is what movie studios do, now that we are a more successful company, people want to get into Pixar. We get fans and tourists; we call them ‘looky-loos. But we also get people who want to steal our intellectual property, our ideas. It’s no laughing matter that the world is a much different place than in 1998.” Emeryville’s city council initially denied the expansion plans over the fence, but it seems after pressure from Pixar – and a threat or two to leave Emeryville – the plan (fence included) was approved.

One of the most memorable features of Pixar are the many characters from Pixar animation movies that found their way on to the campus. Outside you’ll find a huge version of Luxor Jr., while the cast of The Incredibles and Monsters Inc. can be found within the atrium.

Why do they do this? Sure it adds some brand value to a campus that otherwise might seem plain, but for a company like Pixar who slaves for many years bringing their films to life, it represents a connection to and love of their work. There can be no greater feeling that walking around the workplace and being reminded of the great work you helped to produce.

Here are a few things to help create that ‘Pixar feeling’ in your office:
1. Be intentional about designing for collisions and unplanned collaboration – rather than using managerial force.
2. Use the office space to remind employees why they work for the company.
3. Make the office fun and a place employees want to work, rather than have to work.
4. Allow employees to express themselves through their workspaces.

Credits: architectural photography by Sharon Risedorph Photography. The photo of Luxor Jr. by Jason Pratt.

Structure Description

The 1999 Emeryville, California, PIXAR ANIMATION STUDIOS building structural system includes a bolted steel braced frames structure supported on a base isolated foundation. Steve Jobs demand for “his” aesthetic obsessions created another Steve Jobs Story and made the Pixar building a unique archtecture, engineering and construction experience..

Under the 240 ft. x 480 ft. building footprint, there are 120 High Damping Rubber Isolators and 92 PTFE/Stainless Steel Sliders supported over pile caps. The first floor steel framed platform is supported over the isolation system. Site specific dynamic analysis was performed by utilizing seven time histories.These time histories are recorded ground motions of actual seismic events. The average displacement at the Design Basis Earthquake (DBE) is 17 inches and at the Maximum Considered Earthquake (MCE) is 23 inches.

Steel brace connections to columns, beams and girders, are exposed to view and are articulated field bolted assemblies. Finished wood decking was integrated with floor and roof systems for appearance. Central atrium features a sawtooth roof and skylight, supported over triangular steel trusses. Two pedestrian bridges, cable suspended from the roof trusses, connect second floor of the east and west wings of the building. The bridge features include built-up & bolted girders, wood decking and rod bracing below the deck. The vision had been to build a circa 1920 building with the state of-the-art technologies (exposed steel frame structure with articulated braced frame system, all bolted together and erected over a base isolated steel framed platform platform).

The entire structural system and all connections had to pass the rigor of architectural concerns of
aesthetics. The Owner being in the business of developing the finest animation, believed in perfection. Such an extraordinary expectation could only be met by creating extensive mockups of rolled and built-up members, and their connections. These mock-ups served several critical purposes;

1. Helped end users physically observe

2. Became basis for the design and the aesthetics

3. Source of refinements in design of architectural aspects

Jobs architecture and aesthetic issues of the E-W and N-S Braced Frames and Connections include:

1. Connections of brace to column and to girder, exposed to view, required built up gusset & stiffener assemblies to accommodate the effect of “horizontal embedded plate” into floor slab.

2. Multiple “pieces” and excessive connection material thickness created bolt alignment and fit-up concerns Considering bolt pattern alignment, hole pattern layout “creation” and minimal to no hole oversizing allowances,detail location and shop fabrication drilling locations were critical.

3. Bolt Head Orientation for Uniformity and Visual Impact: Direction of bolt incursion was required for visual effect throughout all braces. Bolting required symmetry overall throughout building. “Stitch bolting” was to be located throughout vertical bracing system to maintain consistent “elevation”of bolting patterns.

4. Uniform Projection Bolt Thread per Connection: “Stick thru” of all bolts was to be maintained. Each connection within itself however required an “exact/matching” stick thru condition Shop bolted conditions (back to back vertical braces)and field connections had to be matched by erector.

in the center of the PIXAR Animation Studio is a 60’-0” wide, open, entrance lobby have exposed triangular steel trusses and interior walkway bridges. Fifteen custom designed cambered, triangular steel trusses support the saw-tooth skylight framed roof and two interior walkway bridges. Numerous architectural features were incorporate into the structure for visual effects.

1. Stick thru of the bolts was critical due to the architectural effects and the erection tolerances (too little stick thru and the architect would not accept it and too much stick thru and you could not torque the opposite / opposing bolt

2. Material needed to be inspected for mill marks or other normal damage that occurs prior to fabrication.

3. Bolts had to be installed making sure that the details were followed to the letter.

4. Orientation of the bolts was a concern for the architectural appearance.

5. Any piece that reached the field and did not meet the architects approval was re-fabricated noting the concerns that the architect had with the original piece