An Exciting New Space Reflects A Creative Company And Enhances The Bottom Line

“Ferraro Choi understands and reveres Hawaii and its cultures. They were able to express the essence of this place in new exciting ways. They created a working environment that perfectly mirrors our daily mission.” – David Koch, Executive Vice President, Creative Director, Starr Seigle Communications


In 1994, Starr Seigle Communications, Hawaii’s largest advertising agency, knew it was time to reorganize their creative teams to somehow improve work methodologies. By 1995, after having observed the structure and work processes of a number of prominent successful companies, Starr Seigle Communications approached Hawaii architects Ferraro Choi for help in developing a design that: 1) enhanced direct and informal communications both within the company and with clients; 2) fostered creativity and; 3) showcased their Island roots. While the design goal was cohesiveness, Starr Seigle Communications also wanted to give individual identities to the various divisions within their firm.

After investigating alternative office buildings, Starr Seigle Communications opted to remain in their existing location, thus mandating a construction approach and schedule that would allow for continuing operations. This would ultimately require Contractor overtime, phasing and noise/dirt isolation over a several-month construction phase.

Adding further challenge to the process, their new business approach stressed a more interactive open-office environment, which dictated the demolition of most existing private offices. It was clear that given the budget of the building construction allowance, Ferraro Choi was tasked with providing tenant improvements with “a lotta bang, without a lotta bucks.”


For ease of facility management, it was initially felt that all employees (except those requiring privacy or personnel security) should have identical workstations. Various “ideal” workstation configurations were analyzed and eventually, an accessorized workstation mock-up was set up in the reception area for trial and error. After several weeks of testing, it became clear that this “idealized” approach was off track for accomplishing individual task functions.

Rather than waiting to select a General Contractor from the normal bidding process after the completion of construction documents, a General Contractor was selected and included from the early inception stages of the project. Both Owner and Architect felt that this would create a stronger team relationship, which would ultimately provide benefits to the project in the form of ongoing cost estimates and coordinated phasing for continued operations during construction.


Through workstation testing, it became clear that in order to achieve better worker productivity, workstations needed to match the tasks and tools of distinct employee groups. Consequently, ten distinct but standardized workstations were used for the new design. For budget considerations, the existing panel system (Herman Miller’s Ethospace) was re-used and supplemented with enhanced accessories. Although seven-eighths of the existing floor was affected (a small portion was left as a lease option), the most radical change came in the configuration of the Ad Team/Design Group. Each of these teams centers huddles around an open Conference Hub. In the case of the Ad Teams, the focus becomes a ping-pong table and a pool table that again interchangeably serves as an interactive conference hub and activity center. Moveable white boards, printers and easels flexibly supplement these informal work/plan areas. Between the teams, two intimate conference rooms, a pantry/copy/jam room and the President’s (open) office provide sculptured walls in blazes of color that counter the existing grey furniture panels. Here and in the Reception, thick walls are sheathed in translucent fiberglass or aluminum “totan” (corrugated) roofing, both common building materials in Hawaii, making a strong, though inexpensive, statement of Starr Seigle Communications’ Island roots.

In the public lobbies, interior designers chose pale aqua pavers with gold grout, which provide both durability and an allusion to Hawaii’s surf and sand. A coconut fiber area carpet defines lanai-type seating in washes of blue metallic vinyl. Woven lauhala matting covers the reception desk, accented by yellow automotive lacquer and apple-green stained wood. A custom surfboard in the same brilliant colors floats off the wall in a wash of blue neon. Outside the Main Conference Room, a 1950s tropical bar doubles as a phone stand, reflected in the ever-changing rainbow hues of the laminated glass perimeter wall. Carpet throughout the offices reflects an Island night sky of gold stars and moons while providing reference to the company name.


The success of this tenant improvement project was due in part to the strong team relationship established between Ferraro Choi, Starr Seigle Communications and the General Contractor, J. Kadowaki, Inc. (JKI), who was brought in at the project’s inception. Through numerous previous joint projects, Ferraro Choi and JKI understood each other’s expectations, methods, and detailing, allowing Ferraro Choi to streamline both the construction document and administration phases.

Starr Seigle Communications’ partners and employees alike credit Ferraro Choi’s creativity and ability for their enhanced work environment. Their design has stimulated teamwork, thereby developing better interoffice rapport and communication. With the walls down and a more interactive open plan, everyone is now part of the process. Turnover has also decreased. Just as importantly, clients now feel they work with a team rather than an individual. Already an advertising powerhouse in Hawaii, Starr Seigle Communications is now viewed, says Partner John Sutton, as “more progressive”, knowing “what’s going on in the marketing world”. There has been a “180º difference in client perception.”


Project type: Interior Architecture


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Starr Seigle Communications