Captivating Your Audience’s Attention Through Design

Captivating Your Audience’s Attention Through Design


When WD designs an experience for a client and their business, we ensure that their vision drives every single thing that we do. Knowing your audience and what captivates them is key. Whether the environment is a new campus, a building, a workspace or a unique venue, we believe that great solutions are a culmination of attitude and approach, enthusiasm for discovery and a passion for design.

Pictured here is a sneak peak of the entry design we created for the new concept of Levity Entertainment’s Improv, in Milwaukee. Our client is excited about this second venture with the new design concept and remarked “…It’s just another reason why we love working with you and your team, because you really “get” us and that’s invaluable”.

This 16,000 square foot performance venue, slated to open in mid 2020, will seat 500+ and entertain with multiple lounges and features throughout.

Lighting The Way Toward Energy Efficiency

Lighting The Way Toward Energy Efficiency

Optimizing Your Repositioning Project, Part 3: Westgroup Designs aided Hines in developing and implementing a design solution aimed at attracting flex-office and creative tenants to their Canyon Corporate Center that would reflect their focus on energy efficiency and versatility.

A global real estate investment firm with a presence in 19 countries and a portfolio totaling 531 properties, Hines asked Westgroup to provide a strategic redevelopment vision for their 155,000 sf multi-tenant office/warehouse building, in order to create one of the most unique and differentiated office environments in the Anaheim Canyon submarket.

We renovated both the main lobby and warehouse space for increased energy efficiency and “light and bright” appeal by first studying the opportunities for daylighting before replacing and adding light fixtures in each of the spaces.

Creating a sense of arrival was a key focus for the building’s main entrance. Two rows of tall, modern LED light posts rhythmically lead visitors from the parking area toward the main entrance. Exterior entry improvements included replacing the ubiquitous reflective glazing with dual-glazed, high-performance, clear glass units to permit views into the revitalized double-height lobby space beyond. The entrance, newly flanked by silver Alucobond-wrapped columns, reinforces a sense of outdoor-to-indoor transparency.

The 30-year-old lobby was repositioned as a two-story, modern collaborative meeting space with timeless natural finishes framing mountain views. Replacing fluorescent general lighting with LED fixtures at the ceiling was just the beginning: strategically integrated LED pendants and flush, linear fixtures highlight the natural-toned finishes selected to graphically represent the hills and plains of Anaheim’s 1800’s cityscape while recalling Anaheim’s original focus as the industrial center of the County.

The dark, 25,000-square foot warehouse space was converted into a bright and inspiring industrial office space. Two rows of new punched openings glazed with glare-resistant, high-performance glass boldly punctuate the existing tilt-up exterior walls while allowing for insertion of a future mezzanine between the new upper and lower windows. An ordered array of new skylights, strategically placed to accommodate multiple existing roof-mounted mechanical units, maximize daylighting. Furthering the natural light-filled industrial aesthetic, new aluminum and glass roll-up garage doors access adjacent patio and courtyard spaces. Our introduction of new efficient glazing and skylights results in little need for artificial lighting during the day. Complemented by enhanced roof deck insulation, the former warehouse’s energy costs have been reduced significantly.

Throughout the office areas, available tenant spaces were refreshed to attract progressive, creative firms looking for wide open, bright space with industrial appeal. Augmenting the efficiency of the interior spaces, underutilized outdoor areas – including the entry plaza, side patio and a 7,000 sf enclosed courtyard – were remodeled and activated as new amenity spaces, efficiently illuminated with LED fixtures around functional gathering and feature areas. Offering tenant access during the day and evening, these enhanced landscape spaces extend the opportunities for tenants to dine, lounge, collaborate and socialize.

Our resulting design effectively combines beauty with intelligence, leveraging the benefit of natural resources and incorporating energy efficient solutions to reduce operational costs while maximizing the user experience.


Robyn Taylor, IIDA, CID


The Delicate Dance of Re-positioning Requires Great Choreography

The Delicate Dance of Re-positioning Requires Great Choreography

Optimizing Your Repositioning Project, Part 2: Considering logistics and holistic design strategies implemented in tandem.

Owners, landlords and tenants who contemplate remodeling occupied space often delay for fear that construction will be too disruptive – restricting access, reducing productivity and making their lives miserable for longer than they can tolerate. And when the scale of reinvestment includes both major interior renewal and site renovations, a project can have hundreds of moving parts to coordinate. Remodeling a fully-occupied building undeniably impacts the working environment, but strategic advice and direction by an experienced design and construction team regarding logistics, sequencing and phasing can significantly mitigate Owner concerns and effects on tenants, offering the rewards of few obstacles during the process and a fresh, new look at completion: a veritable win-win.

Westgroup is currently working with an Owner who understands and welcomes this strategic approach to upgrading, updating and remodeling all common areas and outdoor amenity spaces of their more than 80% leased, 10-story, 213,000 SF corporate office tower in Orange. Design and construction choreography is key: discussion of multiple phases, multiple permits and strategic management of people and work flow was the first order of business.

Comprehensive enhancements will be both functional and aesthetic, from energy and lighting upgrades and restroom accessibility to a new, modern appearance for the dated ground floor. Including main lobbies, ten floors of common corridors and restrooms, a conferencing facility, fitness center and hospitality/food service, the remodel will also address outdoor seating and feature areas, culminating with a new and welcoming canopy to frame the entry.

Rather than completing the design and construction on a piecemeal basis, the benefit to approaching the remodel holistically is the opportunity to find synergies between amenity spaces and needs. Integrating areas of the conference center, break-out space, food service and fitness center with redesign of individual activity areas reveals opportunities for great connection and flow between them. Re-planning these areas together also contributes to more effective circulation and system efficiency, allowing for larger, more flexible and attractive user space: great for landlords and appealing to discriminating tenants.

Creating a neutral palette as backdrop for the Owner’s rotating art collection, the simple sophistication of the remodeled lobby and amenity floor features natural materials of stone, glass, steel and wood layered in geometric form to create visual interest through attention to detail transitions. Mindful of a modest budget, tight schedule, and an occupied building, this curated, streamlined and strategic approach to implementing significant changes sets the barre – to extend the choreographic metaphor – for efficiency and effectiveness in a competitive real estate market, rich with both opportunities and options.


Robyn Taylor, IIDA, CID





Don’t Take Your Common Space for ‘Granite’

Don’t Take Your Common Space for ‘Granite’

Strategies for Optimizing Your Repositioning Project, Part 1: Create increased value by transforming common areas into adjacent amenity spaces that function as extensions of the primary workspace, offering benefits to tenants without having to leave the building.

The OC market continues to see competition for attractive, progressive and flexible primary workspace as “repositioning” remains a favored real estate strategy. When owners and landlords initiate an overhaul of common areas to support collaborative activities and lifestyle amenities, both established firms and start-ups can often be enticed to take less office space per person in exchange for these updated, flexible areas that are shared with fellow tenants. With lines blurred between work and play, the positive perception of work/life balance engendered by these amenity spaces can be a differentiator as firm leaders seek to recruit and retain staff in a competitive marketplace, suggesting that the contemporary work environment is all about creating the ultimate inner-office experience.

Technology is key to many of these progressive amenities. Savvy clients, familiar with flexible workplace planning concepts, already know terms like “hot desking”, “hoteling” and “virtual office”. Information access in these new common areas must also gratify immediate needs, whether for interactive wayfinding, live news, promotion or knowledge sharing, and rapidly changing technology influences their design a step further. A space, facility or amenity featuring technology must be designed with the flexibility to allow for equipment upgrades, monitor size changes, orientation and mobility if it’s to continue exceeding the expectations of tomorrow’s tenants. And while a campus environment can offer everything from cafes to fitness centers, bocce courts and medical clinics, we note a strong desire to position amenities immediately adjacent to tenant space so that they function as an effective extension of the primary workspace.

In a recent concept design, Westgroup recommended this strategy to one of our corporate clients. To modernize common areas within a pair of high rise towers originally built in the 1980s, Westgroup enhanced their visual appeal by substituting wood veneered panels for the original dark granite interior walls and matte finished stone tile for the highly-polished floor, removing associated ornamental stone and metal detailing, softening the existing sharp angles, and infusing the spaces with both natural and diffused light. Removing thick, ornamental, stone-clad columns throughout the second-floor lobby revealed a larger, brighter, more open and flexible space, perfect as a shared tenant commons for lounging, meeting, collaboration, game room and more. Creating “touch down” as well as appointed activity spaces with both high-tech and high-touch features offers new and unparalleled value to tenants, who will be able to enjoy these benefits without leaving their building.


Robyn Taylor, IIDA, CID



Strategies for Women in the Workplace

Strategies for Women in the Workplace

WD’s founder and CEO, PariSima Hassani, shares insights for women on forging career paths, breaking glass ceilings and empowering women in the workplace.

WD’s founder and CEO, PariSima Hassani, had the pleasure of speaking at IAW (Iranian-American Women) Foundation’s 10th Annual Leadership Conference. She spoke at the “Career Paths… Opportunities and Challenges” workshop, specifically on strategies for women in the workplace. She has a diverse perspective as an entrepreneur, executive, first-generation immigrant, and former working mother in a male-dominated industry (Architecture, Engineering, Construction). PariSima shared a lot of insight for women on how to forge a path towards a fulfilling career, rise and succeed as a leader, and break down barriers in the workplace. Her advice to career women can be summed up into the following:

Find Your Passion. Cliché maybe, but truly essential. I urge you to find joy first above all while forging your career paths, because success is not a simple, straight line or a walk in the park. It is messy, full of ups and downs, requires honest and often painful self-reflection, endless hard work, and at times it is hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The good news? You’re the pilot and you chart the course, no one else. So follow your heart, buckle up and enjoy the ride.

Do The Hustle. I never let being a woman in a man’s industry get in the way of what I wanted out of my career. If I encountered an obstacle, I found a way to overcome it. I didn’t sit around waiting for opportunities, I created opportunities for myself. It all comes down to having the right attitude, selecting the appropriate approach, and committing to your aspirations. When you’re working with 25 colleagues and you’re the only woman, be THE PERSON in the room who brings value and substance to the group. Be neither intimidated nor arrogant, and show them that you belong, because you do. Be flexible. Know when to lead and when to provide support; know when to go it alone and when to ask for help; and know which battles to fight and which to concede. While being conscientious about gender in the workplace is important, do not look at every situation through a lens of gender (this isn’t us vs. them).

Better. Faster. Stronger. Smarter. Want to surpass your male peers? Break through the glass ceiling? Then you will have to be ten times more knowledgeable than your male colleagues. You must be willing to do whatever it takes – extra research, extra education, extra charisma. When you walk into that meeting with 30 men, you better know your stuff more than anyone else in that room. If you want to get ahead, you cannot be average. The only way to increase gender diversity in the workplace is to get more talented women and women leaders in these industries who are willing to take on these challenges. It is not an easy path, but if you work hard and earn it, you will earn it for all women.

Empower ALL Women. Today, there are many more opportunities for women in the workplace than there were 25 years ago, but there is still plenty of room for improvement. In male-dominated careers where social conventions of gender roles are still prominent, it is easy to fall into the trap of being cut throat with our female peers. This is only reinforcing all the challenges women face in the workplace. We need to empower each other and help break down barriers for all women – millennials, gen x-ers, baby boomers, single professionals, mothers. I am not encouraging preferential treatment, but there’s no reason to go out of our way to make another woman’s life hard simply because our path to success might have been a longer and harder road. We are all in this together.

Fulfilling Career + Motherhood. Yes, You Can Have It All. A defining moment in my career was when I felt like I had to choose between my dream job and my daughter. Many years ago, I had the opportunity to work for one of my professional idols, Richard Meier, on the design of the Getty Center Museum. But the 15-year project was going to require late nights, weekends, 24/7/365 of my attention. At the time, I was a single mother with a six-year-old daughter. It was an emotional decision for me, but I turned down the job offer to watch my daughter grow up. This does not mean I gave up my career for motherhood. Seizing a new opportunity, I moved to California to create the fulfilling career that I desired, while also being the involved mother that I wanted to be. And here I am, 30 years later, the founder and CEO of my dream company, Westgroup Designs, and a proud mother to a Public Defender.

My Fellow Female Entrepreneurs and Leaders, Lead the Charge. As women entrepreneurs and leaders, we are an example to all women and cannot take that responsibility lightly. We need to show younger female generations that their future is not limited because of traditional gender biases in the workplace. Be a beacon for female talent and nurture them, so they feel empowered and confident in their professional roles. Do not let them feel pushed out of traditionally male-dominated careers. It is not our titles, but the workplace environments we create and lead that say a lot more about our stance on gender diversity. We cannot sit around and wait for other companies to break glass ceilings and us to follow, we need to lead the charge. Talent is hard to find and worth its weight in gold, so our workplace environments need to engage all talent by making staff and office culture a high priority.

Appreciate Your Achievements. In closing, I ask you to stop focusing too much on everything you “didn’t do” or “haven’t done yet”. As women, we tend to be very self-critical and thinking our efforts are never enough. While relentless persistence and drive are tenets of success, not appreciating the value of our achievements and what we bring to this world can be just as toxic as apathy and laziness. You don’t have any significant achievements you say? Did you graduate college? Have you ever received a promotion? Are you juggling a career and raising a family? I would say you have at least ten significant achievements. So, every once in a while, take a moment to appreciate yourself and your many achievements.


PariSima Hassani

PariSima Hassani, IIDA, CID, NCIDQ


The 3 R’s of Transforming Aging Properties for Tomorrow

The 3 R’s of Transforming Aging Properties for Tomorrow

In order to unlock hidden value in aging buildings and to avoid functional obsolescence, it is imperative to consider a different set of R’s to accommodate the needs of 21st century companies: Refresh, Re-Image and Redevelop.

For many, the mention of the “Three R’s” will conjure up an association with “Reading, Writing and ‘Rithmetic”. Teaching standards have evolved considerably from the last century due to the influence of technology but also from an understanding that subject learning in isolation is insufficient. In today’s global economy, critical thinking and collaboration are vital to success in virtually every field.

A similar fundamental shift is occurring in how buildings are evolving to accommodate the needs of 21st century companies and their largest expense, the employees. The workplace in the era of Mad Men’s Don Draper was over 500sf per employee. Today, the standard is 60% less. Yesterday’s workplace was walled-off, rigid, single-use spaces tethered to equipment and files. Today’s workplace is open, flexible, multi-functional spaces that can pivot and adjust to the demands of both individuals and teams. Yesterday’s workplace showed little concern for environmental health and utilized energy-intensive building systems. Today’s workplace is conscious of the impact of off-gassing in carpets and paints and recognizes the effects natural daylighting can have on energy use, employee wellness and company productivity.

In order to unlock hidden value in aging buildings and to avoid functional obsolescence, it is imperative to consider a different set of R’s: Refresh, Re-Image and Redevelop.


Many older properties can be dramatically improved by simple changes to existing finishes. Depending on the scope of work and choice of materials, such “refreshes” may well be considered base building repairs rather than capital improvements or alterations. Primary benefits:

  • Lower cost
  • Minimal disruption to existing users and core business

An example of such an approach was a WD project for a utility company. WD was enlisted to refresh an existing mid-century building at a multi-building regional service facility. Our approach was to incorporate elements from the company’s branding (color, typography, logo) to create a refreshed look for the dated architecture that improved the company’s visibility to the community.

Orange County Renovation


While some properties can take advantage of a simple “Refresh”, the majority of older properties require a greater level of consideration to “Re-Image”. Buildings constructed prior to 1990’s American Disabilities Act should be evaluated for deficiencies and establish appropriate measures needed to achieve compliance. Property owners should be aware that accessibility requirements extend beyond common components of the building (e.g. restrooms) and includes elements such as signage graphics and pedestrian site circulation.

For projects in California, another critical consideration is Title-24 and CalGreen standards. Thresholds exist for additions and alterations in both square footage and construction permit valuation that can trigger compliance requirements with current energy code standards. One small example: altering as little as 10% of existing luminaires triggers the need for dimming controls and occupancy sensors.

WD was recently involved with Re-Imaging a circa 1970, 4-story office building by noted California architect Craig Ellwood. Iconic in outward appearance, the building is sub-par by today’s Class-A workplace standards with 14,000sf floorplates, 8’-9” ceilings, ADA non-compliant restrooms and a 120’ long corridor as the main lobby.

WD analyzed structural, mechanical and life safety elements in order to create open ceilings up to 12’ clear with exposed structure at typical floor tenant spaces. New high performance window films were employed to improve thermal performance while reducing glare and improving interior daylighting. The building core was analyzed to make use of underutilized space to create ADA-compliant restrooms.

The most visible change greets building occupants and visitors alike the minute they walk in the building: the existing hallway “lobby” expanded to create a shared building amenity space featuring huddle booths, coffee bar with lounge seating and informal wifi-enabled interaction areas.

Orange County Tenant Improvement


Buildings that can literally no longer support their original purpose are candidates for Redevelopment. Properties may have fallen into disrepair from deferred maintenance or are sitting vacant or underutilized because of economic conditions. Asset components and systems must be evaluated to establish re-use or alteration potential, with careful consideration given to environmental mitigation that may be necessary. Redevelopment of former industrial properties into mixed-use occupancies generally requires close coordination with community zoning and traffic constraints. Successfully executed, Redevelopment of obsolete properties can create immense value and significantly improve the communities around them.

WD created a Redevelopment plan for a derelict, 361,000sf LA Times newspaper production facility in Costa Mesa, CA. Careful analysis of the existing facility, accompanying 21-acre site, and city zoning codes resulted in a vibrant, adaptive-reuse vision for the existing structure, while unlocking site potential for new office and residential components totaling an additional 420,000sf. To support the higher density use, structured parking was employed to minimize existing hardscape and create a 1.6-acre linear park amenity. Project sustainability measures include a 1.4-megawatt high-efficiency, rooftop solar array that offsets energy consumption within the adaptive-reuse building by 36%, as well as a site solution that employs drought-tolerant landscaping, grey-water irrigation systems and onsite storm water management.

Orange County Redevelopment

At Westgroup Designs, we apply the fundamentals of the 3 R’s every day to help clients maximize the performance and value of their existing properties.


Ken O_small


Rethinking the Traditional College Campus

Rethinking the Traditional College Campus

In July, Orange County was graced by the presence of the Dalai Lama for the occasion of his 80th birthday.

Over the course of several days, he led a series of discussions covering a range of topics including an education roundtable with academics, professionals in business and technology, and students.  The panelists’ conversation revealed a remarkable confluence between 2,000 years of Buddhist thought, as manifested by the Dalai Lama, and emerging trends in higher education.

The Tibetan tradition of education is premised on the training of the mind in order to cultivate compassion.  In modern parlance, we could substitute for compassion the words connectedness, empathy, understanding, or community.  It was noted that too often contemporary education has emphasized development of a clever brain to the exclusion of a compassionate heart.  Panelist Jerry Cohan, Director of Google Ideas, characterized the typical university as an ambitious, Type-A ecosystem that places a greater premium on titles and distinctions than on content and connection.  It was suggested that to develop compassion – or community or connection – as a reflexive attitude, the “mental diet” of students and educators must be richer.  Learning needs to move beyond the conceptual or theoretical into the experiential.

Such a perspective highlights the paucity of a strictly utilitarian response to the challenge of providing education in an era of diminished resources that is frequently espoused by critics who allege that colleges and universities are spending on everything but the classroom.  However, more or better labs and classrooms are, by themselves, insufficient, and the promised economies and efficacy of on-line learning have to date been demonstrated to be largely illusory.  Neither addresses the experiential component of educating the complete student – or the complete education of any student.  Thus the so-called academic “fluff” decried by those same critics – “luxurious” on-campus housing, dining halls, student centers, student unions, recreation facilities, and attractive open spaces – can be seen as essential components in support of the idea of the entire campus as the classroom.  If we accept that learning is fundamentally social, then the experiential value of all the spaces outside of the academic classroom per se – those spaces and places that support social interaction, chance encounters, and interdisciplinary collaboration; that contribute to recruitment, retention, and persistence; and that form the basis for long-lasting memories and alumni commitment – is self-evident.  It’s where the lessons from the academic classroom, real or virtual, are integrated into a student’s being.  Which is why, as a complement to the growing presence of MOOCs and on-line degrees, well-designed physical campus environments remain relevant, most especially to an already technologically-connected millennial and post-millennial cohort, in creating more compassionate, more connected graduates and more engaged citizens.

And this was the final take-away from the Dalai Lama on education: wisdom and compassion alone are meaningless unless they result in action.  Post-graduate engagement matters.  In this regard, the charter of Arizona State University, a leader in both on-line education and enlightened campus development, is especially resonant.  ASU aims to be a university measured “not by whom it excludes, but by whom it includes and how they succeed”, with its measure of success characterized by “research and discovery of public value… [that demonstrate] responsibility for the economic, social, cultural, and overall health of the communities it serves.”  Sounds like a commitment to which the Dalai Lama could subscribe.


John Coons

John A. Coons, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP

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