- Bruce Damonte
Text description provided by the architects. The One Workplace Headquarters project was a unique opportunity for both One Workplace and for Design Blitz. One Workplace is the largest furniture dealer in Northern California and the single source for Steelcase furniture in the San Francisco Bay Area. The ambitious directive was to re-define the architectural standard not only of the company, but also of the showroom experience itself and create a bleeding edge, world-class workplace that serves both employees and customers alike. One Workplace had already shifted the industry paradigm of sales and showrooms away from a transactional experience to one of collaboration and partnership. This leadership position makes One Workplace a formidable client partner, and the next iteration of their corporate headquarters needed to embody this innovation and progression. No longer a static showroom, the working showroom needed to demonstrate what is possible when great minds come together within the context of a multi-disciplinary design lab.
Design Blitz was a natural design partner for One Workplace. As a young firm who is redefining the architectural service model through their use of client-friendly technology and open platform, they had already established a track record for creating innovative workplaces for several of Silicon Valley’s most successful technology companies including Skype, Comcast and Square. Working in partnership with One Workplace, Design Blitz realized the transformation in built form, creating a working showroom representative of One Workplace’s evolution. A collaborative process, the project brought together Design Blitz’s expertise in workplace architecture and One Workplace’s special knowledge of furniture to create a layered environment.
The project consists of 35,000 square feet of office/showroom/workspace with an adjacent 180,000 square foot warehouse (warehouse improvements were completed separately). In addition to the warehouse, the site also included an existing 10,000 square foot stand-alone, mid-century office building layered with many years of dated tenant improvements. The project successfully connected this building and 25,000 square feet of warehouse into the re-imagined workplace. Design Blitz’s design for the new facade and landscape improvements expand One Workplace’s space into a multi-functional indoor-outdoor environment.
In addition to redefining the showroom experience, the project is also about adaptive reuse and urban regeneration. The site is located adjacent to the San Jose Airport, arterial roads and a freight train station in an industrial part of Santa Clara. The concept of transit innovation with the omnipresent planes, trains and automobiles provided significant inspiration for the design team. The city identified the specific intersection where the site is located as a gateway to the city. As such, this project not only had to serve the needs of One Workplace, but also plays a key role in regeneration efforts of the city. The warehouse and office buildings were both in disrepair. After exploratory demolition, Design Blitz determined that the small office building had great bones that could be salvaged and celebrated in the new project. Given the raw nature of the existing warehouse and office building and the exploratory nature of the Design Lab work typology, it was determined that the design vernacular should avoid the pristine and celebrate the industrial history of the site.
One Workplace is a family-owned and family-run company with three generations having worked in the company. The family has a strong Italian heritage and it was very important to celebrate the familial and communal quality of the project. During initial conversations, concepts of the kitchen as the family hub and the dining table as key elements kept emerging. As such, Design Blitz used the kitchen as an opportunity to bring all users together and as the programmatic connection between the two buildings. Quite literally, the office meets in the middle. Upon entering the building you are immediately presented with the work-cafe. It is an area to meet and eat. Leading with this hospitality function ensures that customers and users encounter a warm and welcoming space. It was also during these initial conversations that Design Blitz began mapping both the client and user experiences through the space. The mapped experiences demonstrated that both customers and users would be sent out into the space to experiences a series of carefully planned touch points and then brought back to their starting point - much like the path taken by a boomerang. The boomerang further manifested itself in the creation of the two-story stacked ‘boomerang’ in the center of the open office space. The elevated conference room and observation platform allows members of the One Workplace team to quickly survey the floor and show customers how a variety of systems solutions can intermix to create a unified, flexible and layered approach to workplace layout.
One Workplace occupied their previous office for over a decade and the new headquarters needed to last at least that long. Design Blitz planned for longevity and flexibility by providing a raised floor system in the open office for easy future furniture reconfiguration as well as limiting color and pattern to elements that are easily interchanged as trends change. In learning more about how One Workplace engages with their clients Design Blitz determined that environmental context is key to effective sales. Customers will purchase an entire space, an environment rather than a single piece. It was crucial that the architecture supported the furniture and not the other way around. Individual spaces were designed holistically to encourage an emotional connection by the customer. In addition to being an innovative design, the project demonstrates strong metrics for the economics of efficiency. One Workplace moved from a 45,000 square foot space into the new 35,000 square foot space while increasing staff from 101 to 165. The increased efficiency was achieved by reduction in workstation foot print and a move by the majority of the sales team to a mobile work flow where workers do not have a dedicated workstation. Mobile workers store their belongings at a centralized location and work either at a shared workstation or in the soft seating of the work cafe or alternate work areas. One Workplace is walking the walk when it comes to modern work typologies.