Skype’s North American Headquarters
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.
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 achieved LEED Silver certification.
Thank you for your extraordinary efforts to create such a beautiful space for us! It will undoubtedly inspire us to produce more wonderful and innovative products. We look forward to many happy years here!
Don Albert, Vice President and General Manager for the Americas
The values of the company could be summarized by the words “disruptive, on the move,” yet elegantly functional. The final design directly reflects these tones – the space makes you take notice, delights, has a fast feel to it, yet supports the expectations of high productivity.
Dena Quinn, Regional Facilities Manager US and APAC
The project entailed a tenant improvement of 54,000 square feet of existing office space to support 250 employees.
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.
Skype technology facilitates communication and so should their workplace.
Mobile white boards (“skype-its”) are stationed throughout the space and provide multiple opportunities for informal team meetings or just random thought capture.
Free-standing units (pods) distributed throughout the space contain the meeting functions and provide a high level of acoustic privacy for Skype calls.
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 its 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 Chill-Out kitchen area provides a variety of socializing opportunities and a great space for an all-hands staff meeting.
Distinct + unique spaces facilitate three types of working: collaboration, contemplation and concentration.
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 which encourages staff to literally ‘meet in the middle’. Contemplation spaces are interspersed in the form of overlapping casual lounges.
With the Skype technology quickly making the landline telephone a relic of the 20th century, the salvaged safety phones from the existing building are re-purposed as an art installation in the games room.
A simple palette and restrained use of finishes unite the largely open-plan workplace. Furniture pieces provide color and an additional layer of detail while lighting accents key spaces.