This post was written by Andrea Paoletti
I visited the Palo Alto Skype office in June. I wasn’t aware of the uniqueness they created over there, but a friend of mine from Google, suggested that I visit their office, and I’m glad I took their advice!The project was designed by Design Blitz architects, and entailed a tenant improvement of 54,000 square feet of existing office space to support 250 employees. Since Skype technology facilitates communication, their workspace needed to do the same. They created an innovative, creative and highly functional workplace designed to encourage interaction and spontaneity. The design of the building maintained the original – and quite beautiful–structural components, and 16’ foot tall warehouse-style ceilings. The concept of the space was designed in three layers like an egg: collaboration in the core, contemplation in the middle, and concentration on the borders. The concentration zones (workstation areas) benefit from natural light and lower noise levels. Contemplation spaces are interspersed in the form of overlapping casual lounges. Whereas 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’. Informality is a key point and mobile white boards are stationed throughout the space and provide multiple opportunities for team meetings or just random idea capture. There is a very good use of materials and their paradoxical features. Asking questions was a metric to select materials for the project. For example the design of the pods incorporates a metal ceiling deck that serves as structural diaphragm, finished ceiling, and noise reducer. They re-used materials to cover the exterior of the boardroom. It is clad in salvaged flavor sticks: once added to wine barrels to infuse oak flavors. This evokes an added value and history to the overall design. All the furniture (mostly by Teknion and Steelcase) provides colour and accents key areas in the space. Freestanding pods primarily offer acoustic privacy and access to A.V., containing meeting rooms (named as surfer spots) and phone booths. The only two things I was concerned about were the large size floor plates and the close-end nature of the project. The first concern doesn’t help people meet in a casual order, and you can find yourself completely lost. The second one doesn’t aid to adapt the structural environment quickly if people and space need new requirements, and therefore requires additional expenses. But in general; what I felt inside the building, observing people working, chatting, and moving around was a great diverse space, designed in a smart way and with well thought out content and concept.