San Francisco-based architecture and interior design firm Blitz has completed the renovation of Skype’s North American headquarters in Palo Alto, California.
Skype’s primary goal was to create a world-class office that would differentiate them from their Bay Area competitors in the recruitment of talent.
“The project entailed a tenant improvement of 54,000 square feet of existing office space to support 250 employees involved in high technology development.”
Project description by Blitz:
“The space reflects Skype’s spirit of innovation in a highly functional yet creative workplace designed to encourage interaction and spontaneity, as well as meet specific acoustic requirements in support of their extensive use of AV. The project is registered for and seeking LEED Silver certification.
The building shell had suffered multiple interior improvements over several decades. Stripping away layers of tired TIs in the long-vacant building revealed beautiful structural components and 16’ foot tall warehouse-style ceilings.
Mobile white boards (“skype-its”) are stationed throughout the space and provide multiple opportunities for informal team meetings or just random thought capture.
The unique design of the pods incorporates a metal ceiling deck that serves as structural diaphragm, finished ceiling, and noise reducer. Asking “What else can it do?” was a metric for all material selections for the project.
The freestanding pods primarily offer acoustic privacy and access to A.V., containing meeting rooms and phone booths. Casual meeting nodes are created between, and adjacent to, the free standing pods providing points of arrival across the large floor plates and facilitating way-finding – especially critical given Skype’s international and transient workforce.
To understand Skype’s culture, we undertook extensive user-group surveying and researched workspace typology. Skype implements Scrum development (iterative idea generation) and a philosophy called ‘Agile Thinking’ (the affect of environment on thought process).
To support Scrum a variety of environments have been created that facilitate different interactions. A system of mobile whiteboards, or ‘Skype-Its’, is deployed throughout the space to capture ideas as they occur.
The resulting workplace is a space that people want to inhabit, and enjoy using. It differentiates Skype from it’s competitors facilitating recruitment and retention.
Skype’s board room, also a pod, is clad in salvaged flavor sticks—once added to wine barrels to infuse oak flavors.
The flavor sticks have both been inside the barrel and outside for the summer. As such they are shaped by two of California’s finest qualities, wine and sunshine – a gentle nod to the location of this north American HQ.
The concentration zones (workstation areas) are pushed to the building perimeter and benefit from natural light and lower noise levels. Collaboration zones (meeting rooms, coffee kiosks, white board areas) are centered along main access spines on each level encouraging staff to literally ‘meet in the middle’. Contemplation spaces are interspersed in the form of overlapping casual lounges.”
Photos courtesy of Blitz