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Collective Creativity

The Shop at CAC creates artful, state-of-the-art office space and cool cache for days.



“At its core, the design of this new co-working environment is informed by some fairly basic tenets: people like variety; they need places to congregate; casual interaction fosters creativity; natural light is a good thing; and a little visual excitement can’t hurt,” says architect Steve Dumez, principal and director of design at Eskew+Dumez+Ripple.

All photos by Sara Essex Bradley

The free-flowing cold brew — conveniently situated next to beer taps housing two different selections from Urban South Brewery — is just one of many details indicating that The Shop at the CAC is not like most office spaces.

The 40,000-square-foot co-working space at 900 Camp St., was completed in September and has quickly generated buzz around town for its cool digs, community and cultural partnerships and swanky design. The fact that it is housed in the circa-1900s, former Katz & Besthoff (K&B) warehouse — which also serves as home to the Contemporary Arts Center — of course accounts for some of the chatter around town.

The property was developed and is managed and owned by The Domain Companies, which is also a tenant. The renovation and design is by Eskew+Dumez+Ripple, whose recent projects include the Orpheum Theatre restoration, The Ace Hotel and Crescent Park. Architecturally, massive, original timber beams, historical replicas of the building’s 85 windows and — every industrial design junkie’s favorite element, exposed brick — define the space.

“The project’s design, from furniture layouts to glass storefronts, is meant to maximize connectivity,” says Matthew Schwartz, co-founder and principal of The Domain Companies, which specializes in sustainable, mixed-use development. “The design inspiration is consistent with the primary goal of shared workspaces, which is to move from yesterday’s tight, cubby-like office and cubicle spaces to bright, open, modern workspaces that create energy and foster creativity, communication and interaction.”

Schwartz points to the architectural staircase connecting the two floors to illustrate this concept.

“This feature creates a focal point for the commons spaces, while enhancing both visual and physical connectivity for the entire space,” he says. “A ‘Spanish steps’ feature spans both sides of the staircase, creating additional workspaces during the day and serving as the focal point of programming in the evening.”

The common spaces are flanked around the perimeter of both floors by 69 private offices, seven conference rooms and private phone booths. The Domain Companies occupies about one-third of the fourth floor.


 

     
The architect sought to create an environment that would bring people together, building a new creative community out of a collection of individual tenants. “People also require interaction in today’s workplace,” says architect Steve Dumez, principal and director of design at Eskew+Dumez+Ripple. “They go to work to meet and to collaborate, to brainstorm, to sometimes do research, to do a whole range of activities they don’t necessarily think of as ‘work’ in the traditional sense of the word.”

The “library” on the fourth floor is a quiet, lushly furnished room open on one side to the atrium and on the other side is closed off to the common space by a glass wall. The rooftop deck provides outdoor space with stunning views where members can work, take a break or enjoy yoga and meditation, as well as other programming.

Work by local artists, such as Bruce Davenport Jr., Ellen Macomber, Eric Nunez and Frank Relle, to name a few, populate the spaces, which are infused by a curated playlist by DJ, artist, photographer, model and actress, Musa.

“Being a part of an iconic cultural institution like the Contemporary Arts Center, we had the goal of creating opportunities for artwork of virtually every medium,” says Schwartz. “We achieved this by working with our partners to design and furnish a workspace featuring art-filled, expansive common areas with endless configurations for events, meetings, conversation and privacy.”

In addition to the yoga and meditation classes, professional development events, networking and community events are held at the space.


 

     
“Responding to the natural materials found in the historic CAC building — wood, brick — the design uses a limited palate of new materials [such as] concrete, wood [and] steel, to act as a backdrop for key design elements found in the artwork and furnishings that accent the open environment,” says Dumez. The team at AOS selected a mixture of vintage, midcentury modern and reproduction pieces to furnish the lounge areas and library. Each of the private offices also come furnished.

Members can host their own events and are also entitled to a bevvy of amenities and benefits, such as memberships to the CAC, shower facilities, parking, state-of-the art technologies, IT support, HR, accounting and other benefits services.

“Operationally, the goal of The Shop is to remove the hassles in handling the physical needs of a business, so we incorporated every possible amenity into the design in order to achieve that experience for our users,” says Schwartz, who stresses that the project utilized the federal and state historic tax credits. “It’s an example of how important these programs are to restoring Downtown New Orleans’ most beautiful historic places. The design is entirely place-based, unquestionably New Orleans, and celebrates our culture’s unique focus on the arts.”


At A Glance

The Shop at the Contemporary Arts Center

Developed, managed and owned by The Domain Companies, which is also a tenant

Address: 900 Camp Street, 3rd Floor
Office completed: September 2017
Architect: Eskew+Dumez+Ripple
Contractor: Palmisano
Interior Designer: Eskew+Dumez+Ripple
Furnishings: AOS
Finishes and Art Curation: Studio Interior Design
Square footage: 40,000 square feet
Budget: $13 million (development cost)
Primary goal: To create a modern, collaborative, multi-purpose, art-filled space, while also preserving the historic integrity of the building.
Biggest challenge: Working above an operating arts and cultural institution and balancing the historic architecture with contemporary finishes and art.
Standout feature: The iconic, four-story atrium crisscrossed with original supporting, heavy timber beams, exposed brick and restored wood windows.

 

     

 

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