Posts tagged with "Office Interiors":
Expensify is an expense management software company, so it’s fitting that its newest office in Portland, Oregon, is set inside one of the city’s historic bank buildings. Located on the corner of Southwest 5th Avenue and Stark Street, the 103-year-old First National Bank, or the “marble temple,” does not look like the home of an emerging tech enterprise. But the San Francisco–based brand has outfitted the four-story atrium and other spaces to respond to its need for flexibility without compromising the integrity of the structure.
Designed by ZGF Architects, the office reflects Expensify’s self-described “choose-your-own-adventure” work setting. Employees have an array of seating options, from a 41-foot-long communal table to a plush swing set, a classy boardroom, and a speakeasy-style salon with leather booths by Restoration Hardware—all except for personal desks. This goal of creating a 100 percent agile workplace drove all design decisions both large and small, according to Alan Gerencer, principal of ZGF.
Expensify also wanted its office to be a place where employees could directly connect with each other and the national landmark building. Gerencer explained that the interior was completely shelled out when they began work. “It was bare concrete,” he said. “Our effort was to define this space and still respect what was existing.”
To do this, ZGF referenced both the obvious and minute details on the building’s exterior as well as its Art Deco, skylit interior. For example, the firm imagined a set of floating conference rooms immediately visible from the bank’s main entrance that resemble a tree house. Built with glass and blackened steel, the triad of windows on the boxy structures mirror the bank’s expansive vertical windows. Angular chandeliers from Nemo Lighting, reminiscent of the opulent hanging lamps found in old banks, gleam inside. Additionally, the oak flooring by Kährs and millwork used throughout the entire office pay homage to the patterns of oak leaves and acorns on the historic bank vault doors.
Even the oak wood–clad private booths on the third floor, designed for quiet work and conversation, feature a Scandinavian gabled roof design that’s defined with the exact shape and proportions of the classical X-shaped balustrades and grilles nearby. All of these varied work areas allow employees to interact with the historic space on many different levels.
Because Expensify is leasing the office space, ZGF laid out the interior architecture to “gently touch” its historic core. “This whole structure could essentially be removed,” Gerencer said, “and no one would ever know Expensify was there.”
When Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield approached Studio O+A to design his company’s new San Francisco headquarters, he talked about wanting a design that would embrace the natural beauty of the West Coast, from the Cascadian forests of his youth to the California mountains where he loves to hike. It was up to the designers to figure out how to pack the wonder of landscapes like Joshua Tree and Yosemite into the 132,269 square feet of office space spread across six floors of a midrise downtown building. Sure, you can hear them saying, no problem.
The Studio O+A team came up with a neat conceit: The headquarters would be organized like the Pacific Crest Trail, with each floor mimicking a biome that a hiker would travel through on his or her journey. The lowest floor is covered in the warm brown tones of the Southern California desert, with potted cactuses to match, and successive floors above climb through climes, culminating in a forest-themed level with dappled overhead lighting and birch bark screens. The design is meant to orient workers as they navigate the building, a helpfulness inspired by the ethos of hiking, according to Primo Orpilla, Studio O+A cofounder and principal. “There’s a certain trail etiquette about helping people along the route—it’s about learning and discovery, and we used that as a design philosophy.”
Rather than mimicking nature literally, Studio O+A loosely translated landscape features like waterfalls and mountain lakes into custom details like cascading seating steps and sculptural lighting installations. Circular meeting nooks on the forest-themed floor are inspired by rings of trees known as “fairy circles.” To finish these designs, the team selected materials “you might not expect inside,” said Verda Alexander, cofounder at Studio O+A. “We were able to bring the outside in…with plants and materials like concrete block and gravel.”
The Slack office is an evolution from Studio O+A’s earliest work for tech giants such as Facebook, for which the firm stripped back warehouses to their raw industrial bones. “That was workplace 1.0,” Orpilla said, “and this is workplace 3.0.” While parts of the Slack office do flaunt exposed structural surfaces, overall the design is more additive than subtractive—more focused on building the company’s unique visual identity than creating a tabula rasa.
Such evolution is part of how Studio O+A keeps its designs original, even after working on dozens of tech offices. “We aim to never repeat details; we want the work to be special,” Orpilla said. “People come back to spaces like that.” Not that it’s easy to constantly rethink the way people work. “It does drive us crazy,” Orpilla said, “but it’s a good crazy.” Nothing a nice hike wouldn’t fix.