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Contract magazine has named Studio O+A principals Verda Alexander and Primo Orpilla as Designers of the Year for 2011. The magazine gives this award annually to individuals whose work and practice raise the standard for excellence in commercial design and exhibit tremendous potential for ongoing contributions to the industry.
The award was presented at the 32nd Annual Interiors Awards Breakfast, hosted byContract on January 28, 2011 in New York City. Previous winners of the award include Shigeru Ban, Shashi Caan, Michael Graves, William McDonough, Peter Pfau, and David Rockwell.


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Dreamhost Headquarters, La Brea, CA, 2010, Photo: Jasper Sanidad


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Dreamhost Headquarters, La Brea, CA, 2010, Photo: Jasper Sanidad

Alexander and Orpilla founded Studio O+A in 1991. With a staff of about 15, the San Francisco–based interior design firm has become well-known for workplace design for technology clients, including eBay, Facebook, PayPal, and Yelp, as well as for companies such as Emergence Capital Partners and Levi Strauss & Co.

With so many clients devoted to innovation, the firm’s strategy has always been to push the boundaries of the work environment. “There’s a new generation of workers today who grew up on social networking, and they’re open to a very transparent, open work environment,” says Orpilla. “So we look at workplaces as large collectives, with different specialties that can be either grouped for cross-pollination or sequestered in different areas, all within an open plan space.”


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Facebook Headquarters, Palo Alto, CA, 2009, Photo: Cesar Rubio


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Facebook Headquarters, Palo Alto, CA, 2009, Photo: Cesar Rubio

At the same time, the firm customizes its designs for each client—often using technology in unconventional ways.“We try to understand the company that we’re working for and embed their philosophy in the design,” says Alexander. “We’ve actually used social networking in our design process to poll wide groups of workers to get input into the design process.”


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W Salon, San Jose, CA, 2008, Photo: David Wakely


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W Salon, San Jose, CA, 2008, Photo: David Wakely

Alexander received a Masters in Landscape Architecture from U.C. Berkeley in 1992 and a Masters of Fine Arts from the San Francisco Art Institute in 2007. Orpilla received a Bachelors of Science in interior design from San Jose State University in 1988.

Contract editor-in-chief Jennifer Busch and the magazine’s editors selected the firm for the honor. The January/February issue features Alexander and Orpilla on the cover and includes an article about their work.


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Studio O+A staff (left to right): Alexander Ng, Soo Emens, Denise Cherry, Al Claxton, Al McKee (on ladder), Verda Alexander, Primo Orpilla, Perry Stephney, Birgit Schweimanns,


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