Metal Architecture Home

Reimagining 777 Aviation

Three-story office complex is redeveloped to reflect the needs and culture of today's work

777 Aviation 011

For decades, Xerox Corp. occupied the modernist, Craig Ellwood-designed, single-tenant office building located at 777 Aviation Blvd. in El Segundo, Calif. Historically dense with aviation and defense companies, the Los Angeles International Airport-adjacent city has, in recent years, evolved into a modern and diverse business community. In step with the city’s transformation, the late-1960s, three-story office complex has been reimagined and redeveloped to reflect the needs and culture of today's workspaces. A café, gym, bike rental program and multiple congregation areas are all part of the building's updated scope and amenities.

Developers Embarcadero Capital Partners, Belmont, Calif., and New York City-based Westbrook Partners' goal was to repurpose 777 Aviation Blvd. from a single-tenant office to a dynamic, multi-tenant creative campus with indoor and outdoor environments that promote collaboration. Renowned architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), Los Angeles, was brought onboard to actualize their vision.

Because of its iconic status, SOM aimed to preserve much of the existing exterior façade. At the same time, three main objectives were to increase daylighting, give the building a contemporary look and blur the lines between the indoors and outdoors. The design team leveraged the benefits of glass throughout the building to optimize and enhance daylight diffusion, thermal performance, and overall aesthetics. Integrating a grand atrium with a series of large-scale skylights, removing concrete shear walls and incorporating fenestration systems that met thermal performance requirements without compromising the design intent all played key roles in realizing SOM's strategy.

When redesigning 777 Aviation Blvd., SOM's goal was to keep much of the fenestration on the upper floors intact. In relation to energy code compliance, these existing systems were grandfathered in, but upgraded with high-performance, sun control film. New glazing systems, however, were subjected to California's stringent Title 24 energy code requirements. To accommodate, first floor openings and upper level balcony areas utilized Los Angeles-based CRL-U.S. Aluminum's Series 4500SG Structural Silicone Glazed Curtain Wall. The patented curtainwall is engineered without exposed exterior vertical mullions and joint fasteners. This produces uninterrupted horizontal glass spans that provide a seamless floor-to-ceiling glass line that transitions to the interior. The pressure bar-free design uses a proprietary, non-conductive, injection-molded thermoplastic connector that connects interior and exterior members, achieving total thermal isolation. Paired with 1-inch, low-E, insulating glass, the two-sided silicone system provides thermal performance while meeting design objectives.

The upgraded envelope also leverages CRL-U.S. Aluminum's Entice Entrance System, which outfits multiple exterior entryways. The patented system features ultra-narrow, 1 1/8-inch vertical stiles and an overall system depth of 2 1/2 inches, producing an all-glass aesthetic. In addition, it has the ability to support handle hardware—including panic devices—on 1-inch insulating glass using proprietary through-glass fittings. Despite its all-glass aesthetic, the NFRC rated system can achieve a 0.33 U-factor to meet stringent thermal performance requirements. It also meets ASHRAE 90.1 air infiltration requirements.

"Given the performance criteria for the new fenestration and our goal of having a minimalist aesthetic, there was no other option than the Entice Entrance System we specified," says Susan Bartley, AIA, LEED AP, and project manager at SOM.

New glazing systems in the interior served to complement and reference the exterior themes while allowing daylight to penetrate deep into the structure. All-glass entrances comprising C.R. Laurence DRS Door Rails, floating headers and low-profile sidelite channels enhance the contemporary design. Individual tenant and office build-out entrances are secured with CRL-Blumcraft Panic Handles, which feature a slim, design that increases safety and security. The 13/16-inch custom, laminated glass was specified to allow taller glass spans and improve STC ratings for reduced sound transmission. The sprawling glass walls feature a custom, unique dot pattern frit that adds a subtle design element, while diffusing light and enhancing privacy.

The grand atrium at the building’s core is flanked by towering glass walls and walkways lined with CRL’s GRS TAPER-LOC Glass Guardrail System. The guardrail has an ICC-ES approved base shoe system for glass railings. A large stadium-like seating structure serves as the lobby’s centerpiece and central collaborative area. The structure’s warm wood tones create an engaging dialogue and material contrast with the surrounding glass and concrete themes.

The building at 777 Aviation Blvd. represents a success story on multiple fronts. SOM went above and beyond the traditional scope of a retrofit project by upgrading the identity and performance of the building without foregoing Ellwood’s iconic architecture. SOM's deliberate design and specification demonstrates how selecting the right fenestration and glazing systems can give new purpose and direction to classic buildings.

Andrew Haring is vice president of marketing at CRL-U.S. Aluminum, Los Angeles. For more information, visit