Howard Building Corporation our-work

The National Typewriter Company

Santa Monica
The National Typewriter Company
Project Team
Square One Design
Lexington Financial Management, LLC
18,000 Square Feet

Project Description

Intentionally obscure and misleading, the name on the building says, “The National Typewriter Company,” not that typewriters have anything to do with what happens inside. The historic, refurbished building located in Santa Monica houses Bad Robot, J. J. Abrams's production company, the same production company responsible for the hit TV series Lost and Alias and blockbuster movies like Cloverfield, Mission: Impossible III, and the newest generation of Star Trek movies.

True to Abrams's love for slow reveals and misdirection, the 18,000 square foot creative workshop and production facility hides behind the shroud of the name outside, while inside bustles with three floors of editing bays, a screening room that also functions as a set, a state-of-the-art recording studio, a prop workshop, and Abrams's personal suite of offices. A 4,000 square foot entertainment area on the roof serves as a private event venue and as an occasional putting range. Even before entering the space, visitors are greeted by a small sign above a glowing green light at the front door. The sign reads, “Are you ready?”

Howard Building Corporation worked with architect, Joey Shimoda, to create the distinctive environment that houses Bad Robot. As a direct reflection of J.J. Abrams's vision and personal creative process, the space simultaneously reveals and hides through its architectural form. Features such as exposed wooden beams, extensive use of large steel framed glass windows, staircases with breezeways extending into open spaces, an exposed I-beam shooting across a two-story seating area all speak of the transparent nature of the space. However, the real work happens tucked away in myriad rooms dedicated to the various activities of the process and public seating areas with an intimate scale that makes them seem as if they are wrapped in cocoon-like privacy. Abrams's own bathroom requires one to pull on a book entitled “Louis Tannen's Catalog of Magic” to reveal the toilet behind a secret opening in the wall.

Concrete and wood floors, reclaimed wood faced walls, exposed and painted brick, large scale graphics, special sculptural ceiling treatments that provide acoustic absorption, and a wood plank ceiling that extends from the interior to become the finish for the exterior roof are just a few of the special design features of the space. Recessed lights in hard lid areas and downlights in exposed ceilings are balanced by large windows and skylights cut through the roof to allow in natural light. A conference room floats above the seats in the screening room, a seating area perches along the path of the second story mezzanine, and a private lounge area sits on a raised platform surrounded by custom built shelves that display an impressive collection of movie mementos and toys. One gets the sense that even these places of meeting are meant to be both about view and intensely, visually declaring their right to secrecy. 

When Tom Cruise first experienced the space during the initial color board work-ups for MI IV, he commented, “This is the most incredible creative space I've ever seen.”