inside the studio
The spare, industrial-inspired studio is enlivened by murals like this one of Kobe Bryant. © IWAN BAAN

Nike Opens a Machine for Branding in Los Angeles

LOHA’s Nike Icon Studios unites every aspect of the brand’s extensive marketing machine—from photography to web design.

For Nike, the world’s largest sportswear brand, success has depended on positioning itself on the bleeding edge of culture. The company has aligned itself with some of the greatest athletes in the world, like tennis champion Serena Williams and basketball megastar LeBron James. Its products are ubiquitous, showing up everywhere from mom-and-pop shoe stores to New York Fashion Week. Its corporate headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon were even the backdrop to a recent Drake music video. 

Yet to be as pervasive as Nike requires more than draping drip on sports stars. The machine behind Nike’s omnipresence is a complex image factory—one that was previously scattered in different cities and facilities. This piecemeal approach wasn’t working. 

“There wasn’t a precedent for a flagship like this for Nike.”

Lorcan O’Herlihy

To streamline operations, the company hired Los Angeles-based Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects (LOHA) to design a creative studio in Culver City bringing together every global branding component from pre- to post-production, in a centralized space dubbed Nike Icon Studios. “There wasn’t a precedent for a flagship like this for Nike,” says O’Herlihy. “That lends itself to a great opportunity.”

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The 50,000 square foot studio runs along the central spine of a new prefabricated core-and-shell steel building. The interior logic is similar to an industrial factory, with merchandise arriving on loading docks and moving down the line from pre-production prep to dressing models, to photography, and finally editing for distribution on Nike’s website, and in its marketing and promotions. 

Since equipment in the space often needs to be moved, O’Herlihy considered durability. The primary corridor is partially clad in metal to protect it from rolling clothing racks and errant tripods. The muted color palette of the interior is a mix of grays and whites, punctuated with brightly painted murals of the company’s famous muses, such as Kobe Bryant and Serena. 

Outside deck
The building’s plentiful outdoor space has proven to be a huge benefit during the pandemic. ©HERE AND NOW AGENCY

O’Herlihy was inspired by the layers of filters on a camera lens, with vacillating layers of light between studio and common areas. “Some [of the spaces] are more transparent and some are more opaque,” explains O’Herlihy. The light quality changes from bay to bay, controlled by acoustic felt baffles separating the first floor from the mezzanine and motorized mechoshades throughout the building. Stretched fabric ceiling panels in the smaller editorial studios control for sound and the conference rooms and private offices use Baswaphon acoustic plaster ceiling. 

The space is flexible, depending on Nike’s needs. Furniture is easily rearranged and bays are separated by movable curtains that can be orchestrated to create large photography studios or 14 individual ones. 

Post-production, editing, and conference rooms sit on the mezzanine level overlooking the studios below, further connecting the image-making process from product to pixels. A large outdoor patio offers views of Baldwin Hills as well as a modular communal space for employees to gather. 

While Covid has kept much of the knowledge industry working from home, shopping from our laptops, creating that content can only be done in person. LOHA didn’t intend to build a pandemic-friendly project, but the flexibility of the interiors and ample outdoor space proved to be prescient. It is now working on a second flagship studio. “Nike liked the project and commissioned us to do another,” says O’Herlihy. The second Nike flagship studio is also in Los Angeles.

Media studios dominate a section of the building, whose exposed mechanicals contribute to the industrial aesthetic. ©Iwan Baan

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