Zendesk
San Francisco, California

Zendesk, a customer service software provider, was one of the first tech companies to move to San Francisco’s Mid-Market neighborhood to take advantage of the city’s tax incentive program, and the first to sign a community benefits agreement. After experiencing large-scale growth, it was only natural for the company to seek an additional space in the neighborhood it called home.

Zendesk’s new office marks its second building on Market Street, creating an urban campus that assists in the revival of the long-neglected Mid-Market neighborhood. The new building not only serves as a headquarters for the growing Zendesk team, but also opens its doors as a communal hub for local businesses and residents.

Visitors are guided into the space through the wrapping form of the entry canopy, which shares the same geometry with the reception desk and illuminated swag shelving. With both retail and hospitality influences, the reception area demonstrates Zendesk’s dedication to excellent customer service. The reception desk also functions as a servery for company events. Both the

ground floor with reception and the basement floor below are designed to be open and public facing, where Zendesk team members can grab a booth for a quick meeting, or the company can host events. As such, the two floors are connected physically by stadium seating and stairs, and visually through a vertical moss wall that spans between the two.

With a presentation platform and varied seating, the basement is well-equipped for all-hands meetings. This area also doubles as a large event space for the community.

Cutouts in the floorplate of the ground floor provide a visual connection to the basement and allow natural light to extend below.

Each space in the project was carefully considered and modeled before construction began. Roll over the finished space to see the initial rendering.

The qualities of being airy, humble, charming, and uncomplicated are what make up the core of Zendesk’s brand attributes, and were used as guiding principles for design. Zendesk wanted the space to feel light and open, but also varied and textured. By including secluded and darker spaces, Blitz created a contrasting atmosphere that emphasizes the airiness of the open office. Organic materials were selected throughout to harmonize with the building’s existing finishes and emphasize

Zendesk’s humble qualities. The company’s charming attributes are also evident throughout, from the ground floor devoted entirely to reception, to pops of green cheekily inserted into the calm and neutral palette. Finally, Blitz took a reductionist approach, looking for opportunities to reduce rather than add. The result is an uncomplicated yet thoughtful space that combines minimalism with warmth.

Another key design influence was the Danish concept of “hygge,” which roughly translates to “coziness.” Blitz created spaces with lowered ceilings and muted lighting, finished with soft, acoustic wall coverings and natural materials to create an inviting contrast to the bright and large

open office area. Custom-designed booths create cozy refuges for meetings and focused work. Wood canopies extend from the kitchens, providing additional nooks and shelters. The new office blurs the line between home, hospitality, and workplace, merging all the comforts and qualities of each.

Early concept rendering of a typical meeting pavilion.

Just as Zendesk’s social outreach goal is to support existing neighborhood efforts, the new headquarters is designed to harmonize with the building’s existing structure. Located in the historic Eastern Outfitting Company building, the space retains its original rafters, California pine support beams, sealed concrete floors, and uncovered brick walls. When allocating space for meeting rooms, Blitz left the brick walls on the eastern side exposed,

and instead inserted meeting rooms on the opposite wall between utility spaces that had originally jutted out into the space. Blitz disguised these core and shell utility rooms on each floor behind clean white walls, which act as veils and run diagonally from the north to the south ends of the narrow, L-shaped building. All elements that extrude from these white planes are finished in soft wood, creating a textured, layered environment.

To keep the brick on the eastern wall exposed and uninterrupted, glass-walled pavilions were added as additional meeting spaces.

Roll over the completed space to see an intial concept rendering.

The company does not provide catered lunches. Instead, staff are encouraged to go out and dine at neighborhood businesses. The fully operable kitchen and dining areas provide open, relaxed spaces for employees to gather.

The glass-walled boardroom on the top floor shares both light and an impressive city view with the rest of the office.

Roll over the finished space to see Blitz’s initial rendering.

The newly refurbished eastern outfitting building shines bright at night, acting as a beacon that provides illumination to a previously dark and neglected block.

By bringing in increased foot traffic and assisting in activating ground floor retail spaces, Zendesk is hoping to work with neighbors and reduce crime in the Mid-Market neighborhood. The bright, LED-lit office invites passersby to stop and appreciate the historic beauty of the area, as well as its potential for future growth.

With interior architecture by Blitz, core and shell work by Studio TMT, and a newly refurbished exterior by Page and Turnbull, the combined efforts of the project team have revitalized one of San Francisco’s architectural gems.

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