Warner Brothers’ California ‘Iceberg’ project reshapes city skyline

Warner Brothers’ Second Century Burbank, the expansion to its headquarters in Burbank, Calif., has reshaped the city skyline with a distinct landmark, dubbed the “Iceberg,” with its crystalline facade, characterized by varied angles of glass planes.

Conceived as a collaborative vision between renowned architect Frank O. Gehry (Gehry Partners LLC) and client Jeff Worthe, the project aims to be an architectural icon for the city while revitalizing the historic site formerly home to Burbank Studios (previously known as NBC Studios).

Strategically located in the heart of the Burbank Media District, the 14.9-ha (37-acre) site spans 0.4-km (0.25-mile) along the 134 Freeway. The use of white ceramic frit over the building’s glass facade gives the building an icy white hue, evoking historical studio backdrops that once adorned Hollywood lots. The tall parapets form the distinct angled tops of the iceberg, and

the “slip and slide” massing of the facades is reminiscent of large chunks of ice that have been sheared by their own weight. Even though the facades vary throughout the project, a singular curtain wall system was utilized, which made it easier to fabricate, quicker to install, and it also produced a fully secure building envelope.

On the studio-facing side, the architecture pays homage to Hollywood’s golden era, featuring stainless steel metal facades with large openings. These elements create a connection to the past, reminiscent of the grandeur associated with movie studios. The stepped metal facades also serve a dual purpose, providing terraces for elevated outdoor spaces adjacent to office areas while acting as an acoustic barrier against freeway noise.

The massing strategy yields a range of floor plate sizes, offering flexibility for diverse interior programming. The first two levels can be combined into a single open floorplate, while the third level connects the two buildings via an outdoor open terrace space.

Anticipating LEED Gold Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), the Second Century Project incorporates environmentally conscious practices. Low volatile organic compounds (VOC) materials, absence of ‘Living Building Challenge Red List’ chemicals, and tall floor-to-floor heights for natural light optimization all contribute to its eco-friendly design. The glass fritting not only reduces glare but also prevents bird strikes.

Further, the project encourages alternative transportation with bicycle parking and provisions for electric vehicle (EV) charging. Reclaimed water is utilized for cooling towers, and energy-efficient systems, including LED lighting and photovoltaic (PV) panels, all contribute to the project’s overall sustainability.

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