Sophisticated and somewhat whimsical with barely a hint of its high-tech production capabilities, the new ION Storm corporate headquarters in Dallas is a most fitting home for the dedicated creators of irresistible computer games. Russ Berger Design Group, which initially came on board to design a control room because of its experience in building recording studios, has created a vibrant space that is also an intriguing solution to ’90s demands for identity, privacy, and corporate security.

Located in the glass-filled penthouse of the Chase Tower, the 22,000-square-foot space contains a multimedia theater, a control room and voice-over booth for recording, space for “Death Match” (a virtual war-game setup with multiple screens for both players and watchers), a motion capture stage, separate lounges for staff and clients, and 60 work/support stations. The company wanted a workspace equipped with complete production facilities, devoid of cubicles, and, noting the kind of business it was in, capable of inspiring a brand-new breed of game. On its own initiative, ION Storm videotaped the early “brain dumps” with the design team, who later found the tapes a rich source of client wishes.

“We wanted an environment that would continue to amaze, surprise, and delight the users for some time to come, so we spent a great deal of time searching out materials to display and express every stage of the creation of their games, from the clay-monster characters to the lounge where clients sample battle games,” recalls design principal Robert Traub. Moz metal elevator doors coated in hot aniline dye replicate the green company logo laid into the terrazzo floor. Stainless steel and copper frame the changeable lobby posters and echo the connecting panels of the reception desk and the copper-colored floor tiles mounted on the corridor wall. Even the corridor baseboards are cleverly sculpted from corrugated metal.

To satisfy concerns of industrial security, the lobby area, with its six-screen monitor wall bearing the fruits of ION Storm labors, is secured by magnetic coded card. The conference room, on the other hand, is armed with bulletproof glass and roll-down metal doors that close with an especially satisfying clang for those tuned to the sounds of computer games. One interesting challenge was to design the motion capture stage, where human movement is transferred to the characters in various games. Because ferrous components would interfere with the wiring attached to people being sampled, the stage is fabricated in wood and fiberglass grate, fastened with wood dowels and accessed by a wooden ladder.

To provide privacy and comfort for employees who regularly work 16 hours a day and need space for a bedroll, the design team decided upon nests of workstations sized according to individual needs and large-screen monitors. Failing to find roofs and doors among manufacturers’ catalogues, they crafted winged roofs of Polygal/fiberglass to eliminate sun glare, and used corrugated metal, absorbent acoustical panels and maple frame and Polygal for sliding doors. Partners’ offices have garage-like rolldown glass doors.

Russ Berger

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