Think Big, Think Tank

When Rand Corp. closed two of its three lobbies and set about modernizing its remaining vintage 1950s entrance, the Santa Monica-based organization looked for a design that would convey the spirit of its reputation as one of the world's preeminent brain trusts.

A solution that plays upon the term "think tank" was provided by West Hollywood architect Peter DeMaria and partner Donna Jaskola-DeMaria, who created a tangible version of what is ordinarily just a figure of speech.

The central design element of Rand's new lobby is a 10-foot-tall curved wall of burnished aluminum that roughly resembles the wall of a cylindrical container. It works because it's subtle enough that it doesn't scream out, "This is a tank," yet anyone who thinks about it is bound to agree that yes, it does resemble one.

"We didn't want to make it literally look like a tank, but we wanted to suggest the idea of a tank in sort of an abstract way," DeMaria explained.

Rand corporate secretary Vivian Arterbery said the unusual entrance "creates discussion by our visitors and our staff" and in that sense "expresses the spirit of Rand."

"It conveys the idea that we are an organization that thinks out of the box and ahead of the curve," Arterbery said.

Arterbery said it's also important that the design, while dramatic, employs moderately priced materials, like the aluminum wall and maple furnishings, as opposed to opulent or ostentatious materials.

"We're very aware of being a private, nonprofit organization, and we wanted a design that conveyed an appropriate image," she said.

The entrance includes a bank of monitors built into the outside of the "tank." Visible to anyone entering the lobby, the monitors display information about Rand, news and notices of upcoming events. One monitor is an interactive screen that lets visitors explore the organization's World Wide Web site. More monitors can be added at any time because the aluminum wall is built of panels that can be easily removed.

DeMaria said the ability to add more screens is part of an overall design theme based upon the concept that Rand, while one of the oldest and most established organizations of its kind, remains flexible and capable of changing with the times.

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