How Projects Take Life : Urban Remedy Instagram

People always ask us about our process. New clients often reach us after doing extensive research online which can often times lead to confusion around our particular services. When we meet new clients, there is a pretty long period of education that we focus on to make sure everyone's expectations are aligned. Often times we look back at recent projects, talk about our experiences and show the development of that project through design reviews, construction and finally the end product. This process can vary greatly depending on the type of project such as a residential versus commercial.

Our project at Instagram's Headquarters in San Francisco with Urban Remedy is a perfect example of how each project takes on a life of its own and how the project teams and coordination can vary depending on the project type. This project in particular shows one way in which a commercial project might be handled.

A Quick Background Story

Urban Remedy was approached by Facebook/Instagram to build out a retail location in the lobby of their new headquarters at 181 Freemont Street in San Francisco. Facebook had just taken over 35 floors of the new high-rise, but the lobby was still under construction and slated for completion roughly 4-months out. The lobby space design was still being developed, the space was an empty box and Facebook had a HUGE team working on the tenant improvement of the 35 floors they leased plus the lobby which was its own small project within this 56 floor 700' new tower connected to the Transbay Terminal in the heart of the city.

On one side there existed the Facebook team and the building landlord Jay Paul, on the other side there was Urban Remedy, it's CEO and Kirley+ working to understand how the integrity of the Urban Remedy brand could be integrated into this new space.

The First Phase of Design

As a first step at exploring design options we worked in plan producing rough sketches of layout options while working closely with the building architect Gensler to understand the multitude of restrictions in the space. We explored many different options but narrowed it down to the best two which we then reviewed with Urban Remedy.

As is standard, we insisted upon reviewing these preliminary sketches in person with the client. These initial sketches are often times diagrammatic and it's important to talk through our decision making process and to hear both positive and negative feedback. This is the first step in a highly collaborative process with the goal of better understanding our client's needs through the review of an actual design. This really can't happen without something on paper to review, even if it's rough sketches like the ones above.

Refining Early Designs

After a successful initial design review, we were given the green light to develop some preliminary renderings to explore the designs in more detail. Sometimes it takes us several rounds of sketch-type design reviews to move past the initial conceptual phase, but in this case, our client was experienced and we were able to move forward with just a single review. We've found over the past few years there's often a lot of confusion around how we actually produce 3D models and how expensive/complex the process is. Everyone produces these renderings in different ways, we even produce them in different ways depending on the project type, style, etc. For example, I was trained in a Classical Architecture program at the University of Notre Dame. We learned how to manually construction 3D renderings using pencil and paper and we rendered them using watercolors. I also learned how to render projects using software. Therefore, when a client asks me to render something, it really depends on a number of factors how I'll actually do that rendering. I can't just "click a button" which was one of my all time favorite quotes from a client recently when inquiring about us developing interior renderings for their project. Rendering is truly an art and to create a rendering that meets the needs and design requirements of a client, there is a great deal of effort and art that is required for even the simplest of effective renderings.

Back to Urban Remedy.... For this project due to our timeline, budget and the type of space, we decided to render the interiors on the computer and the results can be seen below.

Since the space was a huge modern open box, we felt the computer renderings would read better than watercolors. We really tend to reserve the watercolors for exterior renderings these days and larger-scale master planning type projects. Like all renderings, we use this process to further develop the design. In every project as we begin to develop the design in 3D, we explore design details and make changes along the way. These changes are reflected in the renderings and then incorporated back into the 2D plans if they are ultimately approved by the client. After reviewing the renderings with Urban Remedy, we settled on Option 1 L-Shape and released the design to Facebook to review with their internal design team and the landlord.

The Importance of Approvals

We were happy with this project and the design process which went both quickly and smoothly. Urban Remedy has an experienced team and we have done several projects with them so we had a really clear understanding of their brand and their objectives. This combination lead to a quick approval which in turn minimized design costs on the front end and allowed us to meet a tight schedule.

We talk often about approvals with clients and how their ability to review designs and provide clear feedback has a direct impact on the speed, effectiveness, quality and cost of our services. We ultimately exist to interpret our clients needs and create a completely unique, beautiful and functional design solution that fits within their specific project parameters. This requires constant effective communication and I can't emphasize enough the important of an engaged client. More communication = successful projects.

Project Teams

Due to the scale of the building and the size of Facebook/Instagram, the next step in the design process for this project included both Facebook's design approval and the Landlord's design approval. Facebook's Project Manager, our primary contact for the project on the ownership side, took these initial sketches and ran them up through the approvals chain utilizing their building architect Gensler to coordinate with the landlord. Upon approval, Kirley+ developed the initial drawing backgrounds and then handed them off to Gensler to act at the architect of record which ultimately led to the development of the permit set and the construction documents. Kirley+ coordinated and oversaw this development on behalf of Urban Remedy, ensuring the design intent was maintained throughout the final technical development of the drawings.


In the end, this process of utilizing an architect of record made sense for this specific project. It allowed for Kirley+ to maintain design control of the project while acting on behalf of Urban Remedy to ensure their design goals were met. It also allowed for a quick permit set development by utilizing Gensler's team to expedite the permit in a large and complicated building. As construction began, Gensler continued to carry out the construction administration services and Kirley+ followed along through periodic site visits to ensure the design specifications met the intent of the drawings. Although this was a less standard team arrangement for us and our projects, it something that we're familiar with and it was an ideal setup for this project in particular.

A picture of the finished space located at 181 Freemont Street in San Francisco

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