As wealthy tech companies continue to descend upon Palo Alto to complete their tech 2.0 makeovers, one of the biggest surprises has been Aol. Despite its purchase of The Huffington Post and various new ventures, the old-school (at least by tech world standards) company still wasn’t known for innovation or risk. Perhaps that’s why they asked O+A to design an edgy office. The design, points out O+A director of design Denise Cherry, is meant to embody the new mantra of Aol: “transparency, collaboration, creativity, playfulness.” It’s also designed to rekindle the “the energy of a startup.”
Built into an existing office building, the makeover uses unfinished materials, exposed ceilings, and concrete floors to suggest a rough-around-the-edges feeling, contrasted with simple, white walls and punctuated with a high-energy palette of colorful carpeting, modern furniture, sculptural neon lighting, and bright, custom graphics.
“We wanted to play with this idea of stripping back the building to its basics as a parallel to the focus of Aol's new culture,” said Cherry. Thus, sanded-down and sealed Oriented Strand Board, typically a construction-grade material, lends walls and benches a finished but still raw finish.
Spaces are casually organized to reflect the current philosophy that “an idea can happen anywhere,” said Cherry. The open plan is dotted by groupings of loud furniture and fiberglass-clad “pods” to allow intense congregation or alone time; a “town hall,” a large, bright space that is the core of the office, makes room for larger groups. More traditional conference rooms are also available for those few times when workers need to have an old-fashioned meeting.