Working It: Office Trends

Matt Dougherty • May 18, 2018

Photos: Recent Projects

Most people spend more time at the office than they do anywhere else, and it’s becoming increasingly clear that to recruit top talent, workplaces have to offer more than an open floorplan. Everything from skylights, cafés, firepits, and even treehouses are making their way into or around the office in an effort to build spaces employees want to return to every day. Here, you’ll find seven corporate spaces that are putting hospitality-inspired design and employee satisfaction top of mind.

Bora Headquarters
The Bora headquarters mixed-use residential and commercial complex in Mallorca, Spain is more of a relaxed resort than a typical office space. Cape Town-based firm SAOTA took inspiration from contemporary Spanish architecture while still respecting “Mallorcan buildings and the character of the area,” explains SAOTA senior associate Tamaryn Fourie, with stone walls that act as holding elements at the ends of the building and layered plaster, stone, wooden pergolas and shutters, aluminum, and glass cladding the main structure. The earthy interiors from Cape Town’s ARRCC and local firm Revuelta y Stahn Architects are elegant yet understated, with a series of individual open-plan spaces creating an easy flow with the outside. Outdoor pergolas and tree canopies control the sunlight, and bedrooms on the upper level boast signature barrel-vaulted ceilings. The fragmented façade forms gardens and quiet spaces between structures, allowing for further individualization.

Gensler’s mission when designing outdoor gear manufacturer Yeti’s new global headquarters in Austin, Texas was to ensure that “absolutely nothing felt corporate,” says Gensler design director Mary Bledsoe. “It needed to be down-to-earth, authentic, and as real as the true outdoorsmen and women who use the products.” To achieve this, honest materials such as hand-tooled leather, raw steel, recycled inner tubes, and worn denim were used throughout, while both of the building’s entry areas include hand-finished copper paneling by local artisans. Because of the company’s connection to the outdoors, there are facilities for kayaks and tents, a brewhouse, and an open-air terrace with firepits, alongside increasingly standard fare like a café and full-service barista bar. Above the terrace, a suspension bridge connects the two buildings, and in the lobby, the camping ethos goes one step further with a cantilevered executive meeting room that resembles a wood cabin.

Since 2013, Amazon and global architecture firm NBBJ have been constructing plant-filled spheres to encourage both work and play for the online retail giant’s Seattle headquarters. Meant to link employees directly to nature, the three connected multistory, glass-enclosed orbs contain more than 40,000 plants and trees from around the globe. Doubling as a public green space, the spheres offer Amazon employees an escape from their desks with treehouse conference rooms, bridges, and a waterfall. The glass and steel structure (620 tons, to be exact), created by tessellating a pentagon shape across its surface, is connected to the second tower by a canopy, while its geometric exterior is informed by a Catalan solid, a shape found in nature, and keeps the interiors cool thanks to a layer of film that limits infrared radiation. As an added benefit, the biophilic design is believed to inspire creativity.

In need of a new, refreshing space to house the company’s direct-to-consumer business, save for manufacturing, sock brand Bombas hired local firm Float Design Studio to turn a former Manhattan carpet warehouse into a space that reflected the brand’s laidback and vibrant style. “We approached them with a bright color palette for the space that would be uplifting and optimistic,” says Float partner Brad Sherman. The light and airy space is brought to life with thoughtful pops of yellow, a nod to the company’s bee logo. Custom shelving units made of a white wiry grid is home to flora and also divides the workstations that dot the open floorplan. “Their business doesn’t emit a cutthroat New York City vibe,” adds fellow partner Nina Etnier. “A navigable open office eliminates as many physical divisions as possible, matching their fluid organizational structure.”

United Way of Greater Atlanta
Occupying three floors of a building in downtown Atlanta, United Way tasked local firm tvsdesign to create an open workspace that reflected the nonprofit’s mission. To enhance employee wellbeing and improve workflow, the firm added an interconnected stair between the three floors; stacked common areas on each level near the stairs to encourage collaboration; and put in new skylights on the top floor to bring in more natural light. Reception, housed on the middle floor, now includes a living-room style waiting area and a multifunctional wood-slatted wall that not only hosts the company’s logo on one side, but also tells the graphic history of United Way in Atlanta. In addition, a café space on the top floor provides flexible open seating for group work or one-on-one meetings. “We found a sweet spot between residential and professional that really serves their purpose in a lasting way,” says tvsdesign senior associate Lindsey Kious.

San Francisco-based Assembly/CannonDesign’s lobby redux for software company Quid’s San Francisco office reflects the company’s unification of words and data. Inspired by the walls of a library, blackened walnut and brass shelves span the length of the space, housing books, antique scientific tools, and diagrammatic patterns and drawings. “We wanted the entrance to pull you in, so our fixed elements are pushed to the perimeter, creating an area to circulate, gather, and explore,” says Assembly/CannonDesign principal Liz Guerrero. An abstract ceiling fixture made of wood dowels and Styrofoam hangs above a communal table, depicting the connecting nodes and pathways of an information network. For “what emerged as an appreciation of books and patterns,” Guerrero adds, the defining feature became an art wall that used Quid’s software to find the most influential books of all time. Ten were chosen, from Harry Potter to The Scrabble Dictionary, with each analyzed to determine which chapters and pages best represented each read. From there, they were arranged on walls and ceilings to highlight the team’s love of words and patterns that connect people to the world’s collective intelligence.

In repurposing a former factory warehouse, local studio X&Collective Design managed to include a second floor to fashion brand UOOYAA’s new workspace in Shanghai without adding to the building’s original structure. “We want each space to bear the memory of people, things, or story,” says X&Collective founder Alex Xie. “The space is not the starting point of the story, but the continuation.” Skylights serve natural light to both floors, with most of the office area located on the upper level with cozy work stations. The two floors are connected through plants that act as vertical extensions, while the reception area has been extended to better house events like cocktail receptions. Scaffolding here has a permanent purpose—to create an unfinished space that keeps workers humble, focused, and curious.

Adobe Town Hall
In need of more culinary space while working under the restrictions of the Baker and Hamilton building, a former tool factory in San Francisco, Adobe partnered with chef Mirit Cohen and Chicago architecture firm Valerio Dewalt Train to reconfigure its office. Since the building is a historic landmark, “the team had to be very sensitive and minimal throughout the entire design process,” says Bill Turner, Valerio Dewalt Train’s principal. The wellness center was relocated, and the main hangout and restaurant area featuring multiple food stalls—dubbed Landmark 193—was gutted to keep the exposed timber structure intact, creating an open floorplan in the process. Attention is now drawn to the existing skylight, where seating alcoves invite small groups of workers to meet. Steel signage resembling one on the building’s rooftop and large-scale custom fabricated aluminum screens that surround Landmark 193 and the coffee bar celebrate the building’s history, as do furnishings in a muted palette, which enhance the original wood and brick that wrap the space.

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