Our Seattle office grew from three people in 2006 to a hundred in 2016. Split over three different floors in two separate buildings, we needed a unified workplace. Just as urgently, we needed to hold onto who we were.
After conducting research among ourselves, we realized that teamwork is essential to who we are and how we work—our workplace culture. Functionally, we needed access to natural light, a building with character, and access to multimodal transit. Programmatically, our new workplace design needed to encourage private focus as much as inspiring social work sessions. We all came together, across every project team and staff member, to share these insights, pinning up plans for the whole office to see, to critique, and to share feedback. We treated our coworkers like clients.
Our new two-level studio in Seattle’s downtown core is truly us. An open stairway connects the two floors, with the entrance on the third floor that encourages circulation and, with a wall of giant construction blocks, playfully expresses our design approach. Colleagues and visitors enter via the kitchen, the heart of every social space, like members of our extended family. Here, the core of our suite welcomes not only each other but the wider design community as well, with multiple conference rooms, a great room/lounge, materials library, print room, and model shop. Designed for spread-out coworking, collaboration tables anchor this central perimeter. The naturally lit outer rim is built for focused work, with workstations placed by the windows, four deep. Every employee has the same amount of workspace.
Authenticity and transparency are key to our design. Nothing and no one is hidden away. If you’re a client, you can see everyone working on your project. If you’re a coworker, you’re connected to everyone. Raw materials—exposed concrete pillars; reclaimed wood floors, worn and warm with decades of prior use; abundant use of glass—keep the space feeling understated and fun. We even used exposed HVAC elements as opportunities to express ourselves, painting them bright colors to accentuate both their presence and our personality. We kept these existing design flaws because they’re special, and because they express our relaxed, informal culture.
Sharing defines how we work and who we are. Even today, our Seattle workplace expresses this deeply held value, to anyone and everyone who visits.