For Kickstarter, the popular crowdfunding site, the Do-it-Yourself, entrepreneurial mission is embedded not only in the thousands of creative projects it helps to bring to life, but also in its own ethos and day-to-day operations. So when it came to imagining a new headquarters for its rapidly growing team, the tech company did not take the obvious or easy route: It brought on Ole Sondresen Architect (OSA) to convert one of the derelict structures in Greenpoint’s historic Eberhard Faber Pencil Co. factory complex into sustainable, light-filled offices that foster collaboration, innovation, and community engagement.
This 29,000-square-foot adaptive reuse of the landmarked building, explained principal Ole Sondresen, needed to “accommodate the growing population of worker bees,” which has gone from 35 at the start of the renovation to now over a 100 employees. Embracing the non-traditional, open-office configuration that is prevalent among many tech start-ups, Kickstarter’s three-story headquarters is composed of a myriad of spaces to support an “alternative work environment,” said Sondresen. “We introduced bleachers, adjustable standing desks, and built a library that has classic reading desks and quiet area for people to work at—more of a loungy space for informal meetings.”
To connect with the outdoors and bring in abundant daylight to the interior, the structure is anchored by a central courtyard, which is supported by 380 feet of salvaged steel trusses from the former roof. Sondresen referred to this approach as the “Renaissance palazzo scheme” where “most light comes from inside” and enables “a strong connection to natural elements.”
The lower level is dedicated to public programming and operations with open offices, a cafeteria, a 1,600-square-foot gallery for artists’ work and community events, and a 74-seat theater—made of oxidized, reclaimed oak and Western redcedar panels to enhance acoustics—to host screenings, lectures, and other productions. “They [Kickstarter] wanted to give back to the community and have all the workers engaged and have an art component in the program,” said Sondresen.
The theater extends up to the ground floor, which includes a spacious library, outfitted with comfortable armchairs and communal desks, as well as more open offices. Roomy conference rooms for larger breakout sessions and smaller nooks for intimate meetings encourage a flexible and collaborative work environment. “There are no private offices in the entire complex,” added Sondresen. “It is quite a liberal office—everyone has options for where they want to work.”
In addition to the two-tier courtyard, Camille Finefrock (who also did the interior design as well) designed a landscaped 8,500-square-foot green roof, featuring a staff-run vegetable, fruit, and herb garden, which also mitigates the heat-island effect.
Beyond aesthetics, the repurposing of materials, including the recycled denim insulation, reclaimed wood, and the use of 40-percent recycled fly-ash in poured concrete, lowered the building’s overall carbon footprint. “We wanted to save as much of the building possible,” said Sondrensen. “After all, adaptive reuse is the most sustainable thing you can do in an old building.”