The Golden Gate Bridge

Pixar Studios

Pixar Studios
Pixar Studios

Structural Engineer Mark Saunders from Rutherford & Chekene knew that Pixar Animation Studios wanted to be in business to create other-worldly, animated movies no more than 48 hours after any "earth-shaking" event in this world. So they recommended a base isolated building system to secure the safety of Pixar's staff and their ability to continue their operations quickly in the event of an earthquake.

Pixar Animation Studios, the Academy Award®-winning film maker, needed a new home for their talented staff and high-tech facilities so they could continue to create a new generation of computer-animated feature films. The makers of Toy Story in 1995 and many other groundbreaking movies, they decided in the year 2000 that they wanted a totally new facility. They chose industrial Emeryville for their home.

Pixar Studios
Pixar Studios

Today, the Pixar Animation Studios headquarters is nestled on 16 acres of park-like land in the heart of Emeryville, on the busy neighboring San Pablo Avenue. It may go unnoticed by most passersby. But those that stop to take a took see a great building, hidden behind foliage-covered gates and one that is a zenith of structural and architectural innovation.

The structural design of this new 220,000 square-foot studio evokes a "converted warehouse" so that the edifice blends in with its industrial context. The building consists of two similar blocks flanking a large atrium that serves as the building entry. The atrium also houses the café, mailroom, kitchen, and entrances to office corridors and the screening rooms.

The entire campus includes offices, studios and sound rooms, screening rooms, a café, and a recreation center including a pool.

To protect the building against damage in an earthquake, the structural engineers incorporated a seismic isolation system that consists of a combination of 125 high-damping rubber bearings and 82 slider bearings placed between the steel-framed ground floor and the foundation. The system serves to decouple the superstructure from the soil and thereby reduces the transmission of earthquake forces up into the building.

Pixar Studios
Pixar Studios

In addition to protecting the structure, the isolation system will serve to minimize damage to other building systems such as ceilings, partitions, utilities and furnishings, and thereby provide for non-interrupted, consistently effective building operation.

To further emphasize the industrial feel, the structural engineers used an exposed structural steel frame, meticulously designed and detailed to emulate older construction. The steel, in tandem with the brick veneer exterior façade, fits nicely into its Emeryville warehouse district setting.