Low Cost Shipping Container Office Space, Los Angeles, California

About Pallotta TeamWorks
About Clive Wilkinson Architects
Interview with Clive Wilkinson by Sean Dorsy AIA, 2011

ProjectPallotta TeamWorks Workplace
DesignClive Wilkinson Architects
TypeOffices, Warehouse Conversion
Area47,000 SF
LocationAtwater Village, Los Angeles, California
PhotoBenny Chan, Fotoworks

Description from architects

A growing American charity event company, Pallotta TeamWorks, approached the firm with a challenging proposition: to create an inspiring new headquarters for them in a raw warehouse with a shoestring budget. After a preliminary budget analysis, it emerged that they had insufficient funds to even air-condition the space.

This tight constraint led to a concept of locating the client's work areas in air-conditioned breathing islands' loosely enclosed in tents, within the unconditioned warehouse. All infrastructure was analyzed for optimum distribution paths, and minimal structural alteration. To further save money, shipping containers acted as both private offices and the corner anchors for the tent structures. The resulting project generated considerable savings in use over conventional office build-outs, and reinforced the client's message of promoting responsible, sustainable ways of living on this planet. The project won several design awards, including a national AIA Honor Award.

Description by inhabitat

Pallotta TeamWorks found a good deal on the warehouse, but after running the numbers realized they wouldn’t be able to afford keeping the entire space air-conditioned — plus, they were working on a budget to build out the office. Clive Wilkinson Architects, who had come up with other creative solutions for warehouse spaces, conceived the idea to use shipping containers and large tents to create “breathing islands” inside the warehouse. These self-contained air-conditioned islands of activity provide space for each department within the company and gives them each an identity, and it also takes visual cues from the charity events and races the company produces.

The large white circus tents are anchored to the floor by shipping containers and narrow “streets” connect each department together in a mini-city, while a larger container tower (three tall), serves as the “executive tower”. Skylights from the warehouse roof bring in natural daylight to the space, while the tents minimize the volume of space that needs to be air-conditioned. Raw lumber is used throughout the project for desks, walls, partitions and other built-out designs. Bright colors, map tables, and even river rock water fountains decorate the space and serve as inspiration for employees.

Clive Wilkinson’s Shipping Container Office Space in Los Angeles, California, for the Pallotta TeamWorks headquarters received a design award from the AIA in 2002 for creating a lively work environment in a warehouse with reduced energy usage despite a low construction budget.

Description by architizer

'Pallotta TeamWorks is a journey; the journey is the metaphor for the building' - Client, CEO.

The Client’s company was founded with a ‘vision of re-inventing charity fund-raising by bringing the most intelligent practices of the most successful businesses to the realm of common human decency.’ The company needed to consolidate their growing team into a single, creative and inspiring new headquarters, and approached the architects in March, 2001, having found 47,000 sq. ft. of new open unconditioned warehouse space with an already built-out office mezzanine in Los Angeles, California. The CEO’s inspired vision for the new workplace had to be reconciled with a severely limited construction budget of $40 per sq. ft, forcing a radical approach to the process of creating a work environment in a warehouse shed. Rather than sacrificing other functional aspirations, the MEP components were targeted to find ways of reducing spending on cooling, heating and lighting. Close collaboration with the Client, whose culture of responsibility embraces alternative and sustainable strategies, enabled an investigation into the possibilities of a partially conditioned environment. Los Angeles and Southern California’s optimal climate allows a wider temperature comfort range: heat gains were minimized with full roof insulation, by reduced artificial lighting with mainly fluorescent light fittings, and by maximizing daylight through skylights. A concept of ‘Breathing Islands’ was developed. Air conditioning was limited to those areas where staff spend the most time working, with circulation areas treated as streets or pathways, with no direct conditioning. Potential cost savings of 50% on the initial MEP budget were identified, releasing funds to support the Client’s vision of a playful and creative work environment.

Taking cues from the mobile 'tent cities' created by the Client to shelter charity event participants each night, the 'breathing' tented islands were devised to act as giant air diffusers, minimizing the volume of conditioned air required for comfortable working. The tents also provide intimate and distinct work neighborhoods, distributing air and reflecting diffused light. Suspended from the roof support column grid, to avoid adding any new structure, they stretch in different directions according to programmatic needs of the workspaces. Their corners are anchored down by prefabricated shipping containers, which, at an average cost of $3,400 each, were the least costly way to house private offices and support facilities. Air, power and sprinkler feeds funnel directly down from the roof, supported by the columns.

Entering the Shipping Container Office Space through a large screen-printed sunshade, the reception area features an island desk modeled on Buckminster Fullers’ Dymaxion world map, a projection showing the continents as one continuous land mass, accurately reflecting their true surface areas, showing no boundaries or states. From this area, a dark blue open-ended shipping container forms a portal to the main volume of the building and onto the main street, leading on to the square with its executive tower, a 3-high six-pack of orange containers. The backdrop to the square is a 2-storey gallery of rough wood framing containing meeting rooms, audio and video recording studios, and support staff working areas. The project achieved target comfort and utility goals, as well as supporting a responsible green approach to resource efficiency.

Color Inspiration:

Color on the project was very deliberately used to choreograph views and distinguish more public and neighborhood zones. A dark blue open ended shipping container creates a deliberate transitional experience from the bright entry into the interior landscape beyond, framing ones initial view into the dramatic white tent landscape. Set against the crisp white of the tents is a palette of varying blues used at the four corners of each neighborhood. The palette was developed to subtly vary the views and enhance the sense of depth and composition of neighborhood forms without confusing the clarity of the tents. The cafĂ© container and ‘tower on the square’, the most public zones, ‘speak out’ strongly in this sea of white and blue painted in a brilliant orange. Gloss paint is used for all these forms to enhance the effect of the bright colors. Set against this saturated palette is a variety of more muted earthy tones used on the floor of the tent neighborhoods. In combination with the exposed concrete in the circulation zone, this ground plane is reminiscent of the actual ground present in the mobile tent cities that the charity creates.

About Pallotta TeamWorks

By asking people to do the most they could do instead of the least, Pallotta TeamWorks championed a new paradigm for citizen activism on important charitable causes and charitable event fundraising itself.

The company created multi-day event concepts that challenged participants to journey long distance for multiple days on end in the name of causes they cared about deeply, married this challenge to an equally daunting challenge to raise a mandatory minimum of four-figures (i.e., $1,200, $2,500, etc.) in order to participate, and marketed these offerings using consumer brand practices that had not previously been the custom of charitable events. The company created the AIDSRides, the AIDS Vaccine Rides, the African AIDS Trek, the original Breast Cancer 3-Day walks, and the original Out of the Darkness suicide prevention overnight event. These events grossed $556 million in donor contributions and netted $305 million for charity after all expenses in nine years. More than 182,000 people walked or rode in one of the events. The company had approximately 400 full-time employees in sixteen offices around the nation at its peak in 2002. The company was the subject of a 2002 Harvard Business School case study. Pallotta TeamWorks' ideas and methods have been studied and adopted by dozens of other events, charities, and event production companies in the U.S., U.K. and Canada, which now collectively raise tens of millions of dollars each year for important causes.

About Clive Wilkinson Architects

Clive Wilkinson Architects is a distinguished architecture and design practice that collaborates with progressive clients in envisioning and designing new environments that support, enhance and reinvigorate contemporary life.

We think of any organization as a distinctive 'human community'. Through our design process, we strive to connect people, shape relationships and empower organizations to produce new and invigorating forms of human community. We have acquired a wealth of experience for the enrichment of future projects through working together with some of the world's most creative companies and institutions over the course of twenty-eight years. Our strength lies in designing strong architectural frameworks that personify a clients social, cultural and functional needs, in addition to providing highly sustainable and flexible platforms.

Clive Wilkinson Architects was established in Los Angeles in 1991 by President and Design Director, Clive Wilkinson, and has completed over 6 million square feet of creative workplace, educational, institutional and residential projects across the globe. Our work has garnered over 165 national and international design awards to date, including the National Design Award for excellence in the category of Interior Design from the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in 2012.


Our design and consulting services cover the full spectrum of architecture and interior design, with added focus on visioning and programming, research and feasibility analysis, urban design and master planning, in addition to lighting, furniture and graphic design.


  • Visioning
  • Programming
  • Change Management
  • Master Planning
  • Project Feasibility
  • Project Management
  • Project Budget Preparation
  • Project Budget Coordination
  • Project Scheduling + Phasing
  • Site Analysis
  • Corporate Planning Analysis
  • Planning and Zoning Analysis
  • Post-Occupancy Analysis
  • Graphic Design
  • Lighting Design + Specification
  • Furniture Research + Specification
  • Custom Furniture Design
  • CAD and Physical Modeling



All types including:

  • Arts + Entertainment
  • Commercial
  • Financial
  • Institutional
  • Technology
  • Custom Furniture
  • Furniture Systems
  • Graphic Design


  • Landscape Integration
  • Master Planning
  • Site Development
  • Sustainability Systems
  • Transportation Systems


  • Building Renovation
  • Cladding Systems
  • Core + Shell New Construction
  • Hospitality Planning + Design


  • Healthcare Planning + Design
  • Higher Education Planning + Design


  • Film, Radio + Television Studios
  • Production Studios


  • Multi-Family Developments
  • Single Family Residences

Address6116 Washington Blvd, Culver City, CA 90232, United States
Phone+1 310-358-2200

Interview with Clive Wilkinson by Sean Dorsy AIA, 2011

Clive Wilkinson is an architect, designer, writer and strategist with particular expertise in the application of urban design thinking to workplace and educational communities. He was born in South Africa and educated in the United Kingdom. His practice, Clive Wilkinson Architects, was established in Los Angeles in 1991, and is an acknowledged global leader in workplace design.

In 2005, Clive was inducted into the Interior Design ‘Hall of Fame’. In 2006, he was named as a ‘Master of Design’ by Fast Company magazine and a 2011 ‘Pioneer of Design’ by the IIDA NC. He is a former Board Director of the American Institute of Architects/Los Angeles and a member of the GSA National Peer Registry. He has served as a keynote speaker at global media, advertising and design conferences, and has contributed to radio and television shows on architecture and design affairs. Clive’s work was selected in both 2010 and 2011 as a Finalist in the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum Design Awards. Since its inception, his practice has received over 75 design awards, and is published regularly in a variety of international media.

The recession has been tough on everyone. How has it affected the way you do business?

We’ve had to run leaner and meaner and although that is salutary, it has meant that the ability to truly experiment has been sacrificed. There’s simply no surplus to support it. We are having to resort to Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘Blink’ condition – to run with our first instincts in designing projects. As a career trajectory, this is probably effective in increasing the speed to market of ideas, but one needs the calmer times to test ideas more thoroughly.

You are known for your highly innovative office and educational interiors. Are you involved in any other project types?

We are a kind of janitorial service of ideas in education and the workplace and that works well for us. We are completely open to other areas of janitorial service – particularly when it involves large complex problems. Other people may be better designers, but I think we excel in simplifying and reformulating complexity to create great user experiences.

What are you doing now that you weren’t doing 3 years ago?

We have used this time to take a gamble on building our own small office structure. Construction costs across the board are low now, and interest rates are very low, so the timing is great. We are now well into construction of our 11,000 SF office building. Fingers crossed, we’ll finish without running out of money!

You have done some incredible projects aboard. What are the biggest challenges of doing work in other countries and how do you manage those challenges?

The biggest challenge of working abroad is jetlag! I have had periods where it is intense and you get major sleep deprivation from multiple time zones. Operationally, it’s surprisingly easy as everything is focused on collaborating with a local architect partner, an agreed trip calendar and delivery dates. So far, we’ve made it work very well. I guess it also helps that I have prior work experience in Europe and Australia.

Where do you look for inspiration?

I really think of what we do as a constant journey of discovery. Inspiration comes from multiple sources, and of course foreign places and cultures. Reading is invaluable. I have about 100 books that I need to get through, but find it hard to find the time. I find poetry all around us, in people and things, and distilling poetry into architectural concepts is a delight. I get inspiration from whomever I am talking to — a client or a co-worker. Design is a highly social activity and ideas can flow rapidly in conversation if you endeavor to be a good listener.

What do you feel is the biggest trend in interior architecture today?

Trends act like fashion: they are valuable more to build a social consensus than to have any value themselves. Probably the most interesting trend in interior architecture is the move toward openness and transparency in a powerful way. It is driven by new flatter organizations, and the desire to connect and communicate with people. It is also driven by a general need to know how things work, and how we can assess our world, which is changing so rapidly. The world has become less predictable and less stable, so transparency has become a survival necessity. At this stage in time, we are all clustering at the edge of the forest, looking out over the empty plains and trying to gauge what dangers lie ahead.

Are there any areas of the practice that you would like to be involved with but haven’t been given the opportunity?

Everyone must have a dream list. I guess mine is actually to do more ground-up building (we’re have some architectural building projects now) so that we can extend the interior to the exterior and discover how that relationship can be synergistically animated. Buildings are fundamentally inert and dumb — until they begin to embody an intelligence about their reason for being. Most trendy buildings today are really painful representations of their shallow conception. I think this is an undervalued area – the physics and sociology of architecture - that is crying out for transformation.

I know you are constantly on the go. What do you do to relax and recharge?

It’s hard. I think the trick is to adopt the view that everywhere is normal and everything is normal, so that you never leave home, whether you are in Helsinki or Los Angeles.

What advice would you give someone entering into the field of interior architecture?

Study all forms of what makes up the human settlement. You should dig deep into urban planning, architecture, interiors, furniture, products and all the other arts. And you should constantly ask yourself why you are really doing what you are doing. A culture of questioning is essential to producing great creative work. Never be satisfied with the conventional solution as it probably no longer serves a useful purpose. Fifty years ago, Marshall MacLuhan observed that “we continually use old tools to solve new problems”. And we still do.

What do you see as the next step for your firm?

I have no idea, but I also like that I have no idea. This keeps us wide open to change. When things get bad, I think of being a taxi driver in some other city, some other country. I like that idea and the social discoveries that it could entail. I think that one thing that characterizes the people in our firm is that they are really fascinated with the human condition.


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