Oxygen Media Headquarters in Manhattan, New York designed by architects Richard Fernau and Laura Hartman’s Berkeley, California and Clyde Park, Montana based architecture studio Fernau & Hartman. Oxygen Media Headquarters is designed as a dynamic, egalitarian office that allows a start-up, dot-com company the maximum flexibility to organize itself in constantly varying ways around an evolving set of tasks.
Although the overall design accommodates a variety of office types, ranging from open to closed, the majority of employees work at open flexible “zipper stations.” These not only carry the required services, including wiring and cabling, throughout the space, but they also house individual and company-wide storage.
Desks in the open allow people to enjoy the light, space and air that first attracted Oxygen to the two-story, loft-like, former cookie factory in Manhattan’s Chelsea district.
Having established a unique reputation as designers—for combining design excellence and technical innovation—through a number of award-winning projects that ranged from private residences, to a public office building competition, principals Richard Fernau and Laura Hartman formed Fernau & Hartman Architects in 1980. From its inception, Fernau & Hartman has refused to adopt a style in favor of developing a sensibility and a way of working that is circumstantial, job- and site-specific. working method is highly collaborative and interdisciplinary.
Leaders in “green” design since the first wave of interest in sustainability in the Seventies, Fernau & Hartman projects—whether office interiors, barn renovations, or free-standing structures—begin with a concern for the environment. Every project starts with an overarching landscape concept, out of which indoor and outdoor spaces are simultaneously developed. Each project finds its point of departure in the specifics of the site and the needs of the client. This is true whether the project is a corporate headquarters on Times Square, a performing arts center in the inner city, a residence on Martha’s Vineyard or a ranch in Montana.
Vernacular architecture has been as influential on Fernau & Hartman’s circumstantial approach to design as the icons of modernism. The street language of architecture, the vernacular, is a source not only of inspiration but of design solutions. Fernau & Hartman’s method alternately accepts and manipulates chance conditions that define an architectural situation. Their method is improvisational and is based on the particularities of each project.
Richard Fernau, FAIA, was born in Chicago, Illinois. He graduated with honors with a B.A. in Philosophy from the University of California at Santa Cruz in 1969 and a Masters of Architecture in 1974 from the University of California at Berkeley. He worked briefly in Hollywood as an art director with Jonathan Demme before being awarded a Branner Traveling Fellowship from the UC Berkeley Architecture Department. At the conclusion, he worked in research and development for Peter Steiger Architecture in Zurich. Upon returning to Berkeley, Fernau opened his own practice in 1977. His work, including an unsolicited proposal for a “green” redesign of the Carter White House submitted in concert with the Friends of the Earth, won a number of awards and was published internationally. Fernau is a Professor of Architecture at UC Berkeley, where he has taught design and theory since 1981. He was profiled as a teacher/practitioner in the “ The Chronicle of Higher Education” in 1998. In 1980 he joined forces with Laura Hartman, forming Fernau & Hartman Architects. Their work has won numerous awards and has been published widely. In 1986 they were selected to participate in the “Emerging Voices” program at the Architecture League in New York. Richard Fernau and Laura Hartman have been profiled in a number publications including a substantial interview in GA Houses:64. Elected a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects in 1995, Fernau has served on a number of architectural juries including the Progressive Architecture Awards and as an evaluator for the MacArthur Awards. Fernau’s work ranges from furniture design to large-scale master plans.
Laura Hartman, AIA, is LEED accredited. Hartman was born in Charleston, West Virginia. She was educated at Smith College, where she received a B.A. in Art, and at the University of California at Berkeley, where she received an Masters of Architecture in 1978. At UC Berkeley, she received a Branner Fellowship from the Architecture Department to travel in Europe. Before forming Fernau & Hartman Architects with Richard Fernau in 1980, she worked with Esherick, Homsey, Dodge, and Davis in San Francisco and with Dolf Schneibli e Associati, in Agno, Switzerland. The work of Fernau & Hartman Architects has won numerous awards and has been published widely. In 1986 they were selected to participate in the “Emerging Voices” program at the Architecture League in New York. Richard Fernau and Laura Hartman have been profiled in a number publications including a substantial interview in GA Houses:64. Hartman frequently taught design and drawing in the Architecture Department at UC Berkeley in the 1980s and has since taught at the University of Utah and the University of Oregon, as the Pietro Bellushi Distinguished Visiting Professor. Also an artist, Hartman’s paintings and collages have been exhibited nationally and internationally. Hartman frequently serves on architectural design juries; she sat on the UC Berkeley Campus Design Review Board and is currently on the Sea Ranch Design Committee. Hartman’s long term interest in vernacular buildings has recently lead to research on the mining structures and landscapes of Appalachia.