By FRANK SWERTLOW
When ABC Inc. staffers begin showing up on the Walt Disney Co. campus in Burbank early next year at their new offices, they won’t have to jump into their cars for a long drive to Spago. They will have their own California Deco commissary, created by a husband-wife team known for their quirky, avant garde designs.
“Disney wanted us to create the best dining experience for its employees so they won’t feel the need to go anyplace else,” said Stanley Felderman, the male half of Felderman Keatinge Associates. “The commissary is where people commune. A good commissary attracts employees to a company. They say, ‘God, I love working here.’ ”
The commissary is being built in a 10-story office tower now under construction on Disney’s lot, where top executives from ABC, including its President Robert Iger, will be headquartered. Iger and other top ABC executives are currently based in New York.
To create this environment, Felderman and wife Nancy Keatinge divided the commissary, which will seat 600 staffers and executives, into zones. Food will be dispensed in what is called the “serviary.” Cuisine will range from Mexican to Italian to health-conscious foods. Employees can dine on an outside patio or at tables inside the 15,000-square-foot facility. There will also be a VIP area and sections for banquets and meetings.
“No one would feel isolated and all alone,” Felderman said.
Felderman and Keatinge declined to discuss the costs of the project. Disney officials declined to comment.
It’s not surprising that Santa Monica-based Felderman and Keatinge were selected to create the commissary. They have a reputation for innovative work, including MTV’s high-tech headquarters in Santa Monica that features a silvery Airstream trailer in the lobby and bright colors in work and dining areas.
Among the couple’s other creations were two sound stages and a five-story support building for Disney on its Burbank campus. The firm is also redesigning Disney’s Land Pavilion at Epcot Center in Florida.
“We have a reputation for details,” Keatinge said.
Felderman praised Disney officials for understanding what he calls the “spiritual” element in architecture and design. “They believe that physical presence represents the soul and philosophy of a company,” Felderman said.
While Disney Chairman Michael Eisner, an architecture buff, did not attend any meetings, he did have final approval over the commissary.
There’s always been economic logic behind studio commissaries: namely, they keep workers at work, especially important in an industry where the hours tend to be long.
“They save money,” said Peter Bart, a former movie executive and the editor-in-chief of Variety, the trade journal. “They didn’t want workers taking too much time for lunch.”
The commissary today retains that element, though modern studio facilities tend to be far more elaborate than they were in the early days.
“There is synergy amongst the inhabitants,” Bart said. “It’s an important institution. They used to be a place where you got a ratty egg salad sandwich, and now they pride themselves on spa diets and conforming to The Zone. They are now designed for finicky eaters.”