At heart of the workspace revolution is Silicon Valley and San Francisco, where the majority of the world’s biggest tech companies congregate, bringing in people from all over the globe to work on evolving technology and the latest apps. In this article, the inOne team will list our five favourite tech company offices in California, starting in San Francisco.
Airbnb, San Francisco
The world’s most popular rental company ironically does not hold any property deeds – except for its own offices. When Airbnb enlisted Gensler to create a new home for Airbnb, they laid out a challenge that would deliver on the company’s culture, speak to their values and remain true to the now globally recognised brand. The office space offers a vast array of choices of its own, with the idea for the office being that employees should have the same feeling when entering their office as when a user is browsing Airbnb for a place to stay.
The majority of the office is consumed by and open plan layout, enabling people to work how, where and on what they prefer. Although the staff still have the option to work at designated desks, we imagine this privilege won’t be exercised regularly. Emphasising the ‘homely’ feel is the fact that not even the Airbnb founders have private offices, making the Airbnb walls all-inclusive.
“The lack of a uniform design theme throughout the office is a nod to the universal nature of Airbnb, it’s about seeing the world and experiencing it from another angle.”
The open plan ‘collaboration’ spaces all have their own unique feel and ambience. Some spaces employ use of timbers and plants for an outdoor, atrium feel, whereas others resemble a northern European apartment with carefully placed furniture and neutral artwork. The lack of a uniform design theme throughout the office is a nod to the universal nature of Airbnb, it’s about seeing the world and experiencing it from another angle – the same impression one must get wandering through the open spaces in the Airbnb office.
Lighting has also been considered as a focal point, with the main area drenched in natural light thanks to the re-purposing of large sunlight panels already installed in the roof. All in all, the Airbnb office in San Francisco is more than an office to the employees, it’s their 9-5 home.
Pandora Radio, Oakland
Founded more than 15 years ago, music streaming service Pandora Radio has evolved many times during its history. Recent success on the back of its mobile streaming apps has also ushered in a new era in Pandora HQ, with their latest office in Oakland a genuine testament to musical bygones and their rich passion for music.
The new Pandora offices are situated a few dozen floors up in a commercial building and succeeds in turning typical corporate space into idyllic open plan office. Found are foosball and air hockey tables, whilst employees commute around the space on scooters.
Unsurprisingly, every room and adjacent area includes musical themes, influences or puns. Pandora live and breathe music and escaping it is a no-go at their offices. There are meeting rooms inspired by music icons from the 60s, one set of rooms are called John, Paul, George and Ringo, an homage to arguably the most popular band of the 20th century. Other rooms are named Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme after the Simon & Garfunkel album.
A heavy dash of light blue, the primary brand colour of Pandora, is found throughout the offices. The tech influence is also apparent with screens near meeting rooms showing footage from Pandora’s whiteboard sessions, where musicians perform acoustic sets in front of the world via a stream. Various other monitors show analytics and live data from their customers, an example of which is the number of thumbs up – or down – songs have.
The office draws influence from the modern and contrasting surroundings of Oakland, with the reception and main break facing towards the Paramount Theatre. Pandora’s offices are a strikingly bold, artistic approach of a common problem; how to convert draw corporate office space into an inviting and more human environment. The space includes a main reception area, meeting and training rooms, breakout areas and open plan work areas.
Above all else, the most unique and bold element of the offices is the custom fabricated, illuminated RADIO sign which adorns the break out area. Within the lettings are small meeting pods, perfect for staff to breakout and chill to the latest tunes.
Pandora’s new offices represent the eclectic nature of the company; a homage to the musical past with technology weaved throughout, culminating in an office space which is now a powerful recruitment tool and image for the company.
Github, San Francisco
Github moved into their new San Francisco headquarters in 2015. At the core of GitHub’s technology is social collaboration, the idea that programmers and coders from all over the world can come together and build something meaningful and important. This common theme is present within the timber clad walls and floors of the 5,000 square metre office.
Incorporating the history of Github into the design was paramount for the founders, as they seeked to capture the surroundings of the South Beach area. The design incorporates the history of the brick and timber building that GitHub occupies, via the repurposing of shipping containers. The red units were deconstructed and remade into different objects and partitions onsite, paying homage to the train that would often roll in and out of the building when it was home to a dried fruit packing warehouse in the early 20th century. A replica railroad with brass rails and stamped concrete ties was also constructed as a throwback.
“Github’s mascot – a peculiar character called Octocat, adorns the wall in one of the funky, classically styled breakout rooms which also featured leather wingback chairs, chess boards and a bookshelf worthy of the finest smoking rooms.”
Within the new offices, the main objective of the design was to provide a variety of environments to accommodate different work styles and flexibility for the space evolve. Amongst the open plan working spaces and quiet pods, the Github offices give off more of a trendy inner city vibe than technology company headquarters. Conference rooms, phone rooms and various sized collaboration suites are matched by a full size, curved bar which sweeps around one of the open spaces.
The style is best summarised by urban industrial, although homely touches are found throughout the space which is light filtered from all angles, using smoked and clear glass exterior walls. The generous use of timber in the support beams, furniture and joinery is a welcome departure from the concrete jungle situated just outside. To keep employees fed and well licked, a fully catered kitchen compliments the bar, meaning you can grab a reuben sandwich and scotch and dry, on the house, any time of the day.
Github prides itself on its ability to have fun and take things less personally, whilst still beaming with personality. Github’s mascot – a peculiar character called Octocat, adorns the wall in one of the funky, classically styled breakout rooms which also featured leather wingback chairs, chess boards and a bookshelf worthy of the finest smoking rooms. The fun stuff doesn’t end there, with headquarters also offering a dojo, meditation room, an indoor park, a library and museum for feeding the mind, a kid’s playground for nostalgia sake and to top it off, a roof deck lounge.
Rounding it out, to make their guests feel more important the reception area was given presidential treatment. Modelled on the real oval office and home of POTUS, Github’s reception area includes replica furniture, unique curved doors, the famous drapes and signature oval-shaped walls. Meaning the leader of the Github world – all 457 employees – is the office manager.
Facebook, Menlo Park
Facebook moved into their new mega-campus at Menlo Park in 2012, merging their collection of offices scattered around the San Francisco Bay area. The nine-building campus was constructed over a two-year period and consists of 90,000 square meters of land. The significant construction came at a time when Facebook had just eclipsed one billion members, and replaced the old Sun Microsystems offices.
The aging, 1990s style corporate office park was converted into a social, youthful and expressive place which reflects the values of Facebook. The architecture was led by the great Frank Gehry.
Although the Facebook headquarters could be considered one of Gehry’s more timid works of late, the space exemplifies Facebook’s values and is as culturally relevant as the social network. Key to the design was recreating the inner city motions of walking between different Facebook offices, a feat often repeated by many of the 10,000 Facebook staff. Reimaging this experience would require the build of a true urban environment – essentially the creation of a new township right there on Facebook campus.
What sets the Menlo Park site apart from Airbnb, Github and others is the sheer size. Just like in a trendy inner city hub, a plethora of food choices are available. Two main cafes, a pizza shop, burrito bar, sweet shop, a Mexican restaurant, and the various ‘microkitchens’ are all open for business. A retail coffee chain called Philz Coffee is also available on campus, ensuring employees get their daily caffeine fix.
It’s no secret that Mark Zuckerberg is a 21st century icon and pioneer of human connectivity. His passion for community and collaboration was the inspiration behind the tear down of the existing private office suites and rooms which previously filled the buildings. In their place are open plan workspaces and large, collaboration rooms where every employee receives a height adjustable desk – also known as a standing desk – and a Herman Aeron chair. Quite the signing on bonus given the $1,000 price tag for the chair alone.
Increasing employee density is not only efficient, it also provides opportunities for collaboration. Employees are encouraged to create their own artwork on the walls around the campus, giving way to an air of self-expression which underpins the core purpose of Facebook back in the early days.
It’s this startup, anti-corporate mentality that perhaps detracts from the design aesthetics of Facebook HQ. In its place is a blank slate, a movable object, a place which symbolises Mark Zuckerberg’s “we’re only at 1 percent” mentality. Slogans adorn the wall, encouraging employees to hack the world and break things; “Fortune Favors the Bold”, “Move Fast, Break Things”, and “Hack Often” are the most common.
Even Zuckerberg’s desk is located at one of the open plan workstations provided for all employees, summing up the unmistakable inclusion that defines Facebook and their Menlo Park campus.
Dropbox, San Francisco
The world’s most recognisable cloud storage company created it’s new company digs in downtown San Francisco. Dropbox’s inspiration for the fitout was one of simple, well-executed spaces that “maximizes functionality and allows for customization without compromising honest aesthetics”. The designers of the offices reiterates that the all-too-often neglected office – deserve real materials and attentive, appropriately-scaled interventions. Creating an constant tactile experience throughout using clever materials.
“Humour is also not lost on the Dropbox team with a number of meeting rooms given names such as the “Romance Chamber”, “Breakup Room” and “Arrears”.”
The goal of the new Dropbox offices was to incorporate the collaborative nature and newsroom feel of the old offices, whilst also being a platform for the planned 4x staff growth within the company. Designer Geremia Design clad the entire core of the building in a washed black walnut, and used raw copper throughout the space that will continue to patina as it is used. The copper reception desk is an original design of Geremia, as are all of the conference room tables, and the couch seating in the main lobby. They even hired a local designer to make all of the desks and a traditional sign painting company for the signage above and around the conference rooms.
Plants and palm trees were an important part of the design. A collaboration with a San-Fran based lighting designer led to the creation of LED lighting in the office, rather than the traditional fluorescent lights found in most offices – this created a light neutral space which mean late-night coders would suffer less from office fatigue. A custom ping pong ball wall was an experimental art piece in one of the hallways.
Humour is also not lost on the Dropbox team with a number of meeting rooms given names such as the ‘Romance Chamber’, ‘Breakup Room’ and ‘Arrears’. Chalkboard paint covers many of the walls near meeting areas, a throwback to primary school days. The heavy metal piping and foundations dominate the main areas, although your attention is easily drawn towards the pop art adorns rooms with famous movie slogans such as Back to the Future.
On a construction level, wrapping around the building code is a 500 metre continuous circulation loop which gives daylight and views to the entire office. The open space plan is organised to be approachable but intensively active and vibrant. Team groupings of open workstations and centralised social spaces line the glazed perimeter, interspersed with shared work rooms, interview and meeting spaces, and informal lounges.
The scale and placement of the work groups provides team unity and isolated acoustics, while still maintaining views to neighbouring groups to achieve the company’s desire that everyone maintain a connection to overall density.