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40,000 SQ. FT.

Photography: Cesar Rubio

Sometimes a stair isn’t just a way to get from here to there. It can change an office, cultivate a new corporate culture, be one reason people like to come to work. That appears to be the case with WCIRB’s new offices in Oakland. The worker’s comp claims-processing company had called San Francisco home for 15 years. But it was bursting at the seams, there weren’t enough conference rooms, and (worst of all) it was a warren to cubicles with tall walls that cut co-workers off from each other.


“They didn’t know whether to stay or go,” explains Brereton associate Tanya Ayers, who worked closely with the client, particularly Sandra Molnar, WCIRB’s accounting head who facilitated the project. Brereton often finds its greatest contribution is in helping a client think through hard choices. In the process of trying to make the existing space work, Brereton designers became tuned to the fine details of WCIRB’s work routines and corporate culture. When design options were presented, WCIRB staff felt enfranchised in the process. This helped build trust in Brereton, which made the ultimate decision to move much easier for WCIRB.


So, about that stair: the new offices are on two floors. To build stronger social networks, Brereton proposed an interconnecting stair, low partitions, and glass walls throughout, which all help employees to get to know each other. And the stair’s location in the reception area helps activate an often-static space.


Sandra is happy to report that WCIRB’s new home is functioning better than ever expected—that’s the power of architecture.

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