It used to be the ultimate corporate ambition: Rise through the ranks, toil like a dog, and finally win the keys to that fancy corner office with an executive washroom and original art on the walls. Ambitions change. While the days of the lavish corporate office aren't quite dead particularly among Old Economy companies where gray-templed execs roam such exclusive quarters are on the wane in Los Angeles.

Captains of the New Economy prefer starker, smaller digs, with offices much like the rank and file. Today, more of a premium is placed on high-capacity wiring than on marbled sanctuaries."The word that comes to mind is collaborative whether you're talking about an open office or individuals' private offices. They want space that connects with other people," said Janice Stevenor Dale, president of JSDA, an L.A.-based interiors firm. The offices of Windward Capital Management Co., an asset management firm in Westwood, exemplify that non-hierarchical sensibility. Visitors step into Suite 500 of 10880 Wilshire Blvd. and see the chairman and the president at work in a space reminiscent of a glass fishbowl. The two executives share "the bowl," which is situated adjacent to the reception area. Three TV monitors hang from the ceiling, tuned to CNBC or other financial programming, adding to an airport control-tower feel. The marketing and operations people sit in offices facing that space, but their walls are largely glass so light filters in from the windows, through their office walls, all the way to the CEO's office in the middle. The ultimate goal of all this is to enhance communication.

"We can see everything and they can see everything going on in here. What we're doing is an important function for the company, so it's important everyone know what that is," said President Bennett Gross. "We have the most casual of offices. It is more egalitarian and not pomp and circumstance." If personal office space is more casual and less imposing than ever before, that doesn't necessarily mean it's boring. Top managers are finding ways to express their personalities in the spaces where they spend countless hours of their time.

Take Nova, a software development firm, whose Calabasas offices sport a ceiling surface made to look like waves, back-lit fiberglass walls and an "oasis area" in the center of the floor plan for employees to hang out. The CEO and president, Roger Bloxberg and Todd Helfstein, have private offices separated by a drywall partition, with modular furniture inside. At 10-by-12 feet apiece, the offices are fairly small and situated in the middle of the office space. "They wanted to be part of the action," said Stevenor Dale, who designed the space.


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