Vans Headquarters, USA

September 6, 2018

Rapt Studio’s Vans Headquarters design represents the evolution of a West Coast skateboarding company to a global youth culture brand.

From the original Van Doren tread to the iconic racing stripe, the Vans brand is synonymous with individual expression and undeniable style, something US-based Rapt Studio kept at the forefront of its design,when working on the new headquarters – bringing the underground to the mainstage.

The Vans Costa Mesa headquarters represents the brand’s evolution from a West Coast skateboarding company to a global youth culture brand. Rapt Studio has enjoyed a long and successful working relationship with Vans, having designed its previous headquarters and assisted with its growth and expansion strategies.

“When we were asked to re-engage, we had never really been gone for long,” Chief Creative Officer of Rapt Studio, David Galullo explains. “The project lasted approximately two years from acquisition to completion.”

The brand had grown at an incredible pace and the executive team asked Rapt to study Vans’ evolving work process and to workshop, coordinate and manage a shift to a more collaborative open work environment. The hope was to streamline communication among the various stakeholders and offer an array of different spaces to support the reinvigorated collaborative processes. The space was also designed to incorporate and exploit Vans’ four brand pillars: music, street culture, action sports and art, and it of course had to be skate-able throughout. It also needed to enable collaboration along with the growth and flexibility that was inherent to the planning.

“The brand needed to be ever present in the space,” says Galullo. “But we also wanted to design the headquarters in a way that would allow for the future brand to take hold; the artists of today and tomorrow; the new products and the classics, basically an ever changing gallery of the visual expression of this iconic brand.

“As with any design, we work to make the space greater than the sum of its part…that is to say that each perfect ingredient comes together to make a perfect recipe. When it came to lighting we knew that it needed to be simple and invisible in places and in other areas it needed to work a bit harder. We looked to classic brands that had endured the test of time as Vans had itself. We chose coloured cord exposed lamp pendants tied in interesting ways from Tech lighting. We created drama with a repetition of black industrial pendants from Barnlight. We had a large, custom light installation made for the library space to signal the quiet, escapist nature of the space and each desk received a custom colour desk light from Anglepoise.”

Merging the classic with the contemporary is a theme that runs throughout the design, the headquarters is organised around a central courtyard that connects interior offices to outdoor spaces while a custom Vans, classic red staircase becomes the literal and figurative symbol of connection between the varied groups housed within. The staircase connects the first-floor café with the second-floor coffee area and the third-floor outdoor terrace barbeque.

The style of the workspace supports a range of active work styles, fostering a culture of collaboration and innovation. Concrete floors allow employees to skate from desks to meeting rooms. In homage to the brand’s deep roots in music, there is a jam room available to staff, complete with instruments. Each of the conference rooms are wired for sound with Bluetooth, while the shared celebration of art is apparent throughout with the incredible commitment to artistic expression – murals, classic skateboard art and graffiti style murals decorate the walls and elevate the experience.

Fostering a sense of community, the more public circulation that rings the courtyard on all floors is outfitted with meeting spaces, booth seating (a favourite from the beginning) and places where staff can hang out and just get a different perspective. This configuration allows an employee or visitor to move through the building without traipsing through someone’s work environment. Employees are afforded plenty of individual space to layout new products, fabric samples or prototypes. These individual working neighbourhoods also give way to more shared spaces – dedicated work rooms that can retain a project team’s memory on its walls, various spaces for group meetings as well as rooms where one-on-one conversations can happen freely and within the work environment.

The use of decorative lighting is consistent, in areas that require delineation, lighting is utilised as architecture, as a canopy – a way of indicating a more intimate gathering space and plays an important role in defining each space, the main pantry is entirely defined by a dropped pendant plain that helps the eye travel throughout the space. “We chose clean, simple linear lighting for the workspace and more decorative and interesting lighting for the conference rooms,” Galullo says.

“I think of lighting as that beautiful piece of jewellery you build around. It is always the shiny object in the room that will capture everyone’s attention, and when done right it makes everything seen against it look better. We created a space that was built on a mature vibe but still true to its youthful and energetic southern California roots – a space for creatives.”


Image: Eric Laignel