Digital Environments in an Analog World

As the size and number of technology innovators continue to increase in urban centers, many growing businesses are confronted with competitive and limited real estate options. The first wave of “tech spaces” were inserted into vacant factories, industrial warehouses, and quirky converted garages. These spaces, (coveted for their open floor plates, unobstructed views, 20-foot ceilings, and, let’s be honest, cheaper rent) reinforced the nimble and flexible culture required for rapid-fire innovation. Fast forward to today and the vast availability of properties like those described above are practically a thing of the past.

As a result, tech and tech-adjacent companies are increasingly looking toward post-WWII downtown office towers as the next wave of viable tech workplaces. While it’s far beyond cliché to say that no innovation has had a greater impact on the workplace than digital devices, the true statement may be that their most profound impact is the new work cultures they enable. The 9-to-5 suit in the corner office surrounded by a sea of cubicles has given way to a non-hierarchical work culture that embraces fluidity as an element of productivity: work anywhere and everywhere.

Buildings must be adapted to the flat and highly flexible organizations that the tech economy demands.

There is something delightfully subversive about the idea of the midly-to-wildly anarchic “Silicon Valley Work Style” in a space that once supported the work of real-life “Mad Men.” The real challenge is adapting these previously highly structured and rigid spaces into the new workplace typologies.

Accommodating technology itself is relatively easy – the real challenge is creating open and adaptive workplace environments that embody the “work-anywhere” attitude in spaces originally designed for private executive offices along the windows with clerks at desks inside.

These buildings were typically built to planning and zoning-dictated height limits, and so to achieve the desired square footage, they often have shorter floor-to-floor heights. This example is the Audentes Therapeutics office.

Although these constraints may prove challenging from a planning perspective, they also provide a deep richness and character to the workplace environment. Opening ceilings to the structure above can increase the feeling of expansiveness with suspended ceiling areas providing points of emphasis and orientation. While the smaller floor plates can necessitate an organization occupying

multiple floors, the smaller floor-to-core dimension can ensure that daylight and views are accessible to all. Stairs are dynamic spatial elements that, by their nature, create opportunities for interaction. With careful design, the stair and its landings can also be developed to provide casual meeting spaces that contribute to the vibrancy of the work environment and the overall space.

Careful placement of common-use facilities such as break rooms, all-hands spaces, and fitness rooms across the floors encouragement movement among the floors. The project examples to the right are Instacart and Comcast respectively.

Properly placed, a communicating stair can provide both a strong visual connection between floors and a pathway for interactions. The example to the right is the Microsoft office at 555 California Street, San Francisco, CA.

Utilizing existing building constraints as a design parameter can produce innovative solutions. Although these analog-era buildings may at first glance seem to be incompatible with the digital era, they can successfully transition to serve the new economy. The attributes that made these buildings attractive to the grandparents’ generation – density, proximity to public transit, easy access to bars, restaurants, and other services – are equally attractive to the digital native.

From the right perspective, constraints that once would have removed these buildings from consideration can be opportunities for innovation. The attributes that made these locations attractive to the grandparent’s generation – density, proximity to public transit, easy access to bars, restaurants and other services – are equally attractive to the digital native. With the right mindset, the building stock can be transformed into compelling workspace for the next generation.

John Hunter

John is the technical director at Blitz and oversees project management and project specifications. As the technical lead, he has a particular interest in Building Science and in trying to find better ways to deliver projects to clients. John has been in practice for over thirty years and brings a high level of experience to overseeing project teams, schedules, and design documentation.

Welcome to Miami: Adventures in Design Speed Dating

Last week Blitz Project Architect Abby Lubniewski attended Interior Design Magazine’s re:Source in Miami, Florida. The invite-only event connects leading design decision-makers and design product manufacturers and suppliers for a speed-dating style crash course in 2016 top new products.

The biggest trend? Products that multitask like a boss.

Products that serve dual functions are becoming more and more prevalent as workspaces require more function from their square footage. Here are five of our favorite products that try to do it all… and succeed.

1. Dyson improves the hand-drying experience (again). The Airblade Tap combines the faucet with hand-drying blades in a sleek design. Imagine: no trail of water from the faucet to the hand dryer! We love the streamline concept.

2. White Boards that are Flip’n Awesome. Wall-mounted Clarus Flip combines the utility of a glassboard with acoustic felt panels that allow you to switch between a writable surface and a cool felt pattern.

3. Felt that makes us Feel Things: Buzzispace printed felt combines felt with a custom graphic on an adhesive backing. The felt gives a three-dimensional appearance to a graphic which would otherwise feel flat and is completely customizable.

4. A Haven for Introverts that Doesn’t Isolate: We are always looking for ways to create private working space in the open office environment that don’t feel out of place or bulky. Teknion’s Fractals divide a space and provide a sense of enclosure with some acoustical privacy in a sleek and airy design.

5. Completely Mobile Rooms: Koleksiyon Oblivion creates a break-out space with a sense of place. The ribs of the structure provide a place to run power, attach light fixtures, or support work surfaces or shelves.The mobile structure can be easily reconfigured in a space. It’s basically a fort for adults.

New SignalFx Office Balances Modern Design with Historic Context

For SignalFx’s new San Mateo headquarters, Blitz created a sophisticated, whimsical environment that stays true to the company’s culture, perspective, and sense of humor. Much of the design pays homage to the company’s range of influences, from the “Disruptive Thinkers” wall of fame to conference rooms named after cultural icons like Jimi Hendrix and Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Blitz was consulted to help create a branding, environmental graphics, and furniture and fixtures design that encouraged the SignalFx team to work and play together, noting the company message of honoring the past and looking to the future.

From a Photo Booth station in the “Frida Kahlo” conference room to a game room equipped with a pool table and extensive vinyl collection, the space has a distinct historical theme that blends analog and digital design elements to showcase the people and places that inspire the teams.

The reception area orients visitors and employees alike to the company’s celebration of creativity, with a rotating art show featuring local artists and a SignalFx brushed steel logo that reiterates the company’s “hand-made modern” brand.

Blitz is 6!

Today we are celebrating our sixth anniversary at Blitz. As we look back at our sixth year in business, we realize there is certainly a lot to celebrate. This year we started construction on our first urban redevelopment project at 5000/7000 Marina Boulevard in Brisbane, completed projects for Microsoft, CPP, and New Relic, and welcomed talented new Blitzers to our team.

Since 2009, Blitz has grown alongside our clients and created some of the most innovative and sought after workplaces in the Bay Area. It feels like it was only yesterday when we started, but it’s true what they say: time flies when you are having fun.

PLATPHORM’S SAN FRANCISCO HEADQUARTERS

At the tech company Platphorm, team members are valued as family and are entrusted with a high degree of personal responsibility. It was essential that the design of the company’s new headquarters demonstrate Platphorm’s appreciation for its biggest asset, its people. Blitz worked with the company to create a polished, urban office where the busy team would feel as welcome as they do at home. The result is a 5,590 SF hospitality-driven space that manifests the company values in built form, encouraging collaboration, strong team culture, and long-term employee retention.

Blitz utilized all the square footage available to create a variety of work spaces, even practicing some design magic to transform a small, awkward nook into a popular place for staff to perch and take in the bustling city below. The new office foregoes the traditional reception area and dedicates that usable space to a hospitality venue where team members can work, relax, and enjoy themselves as they see fit. Finished with a palette of charcoal gray, white, brand orange, and polished wood, the office exhibits a level of urban refinement in tune with its downtown context.

Take a 360 tour of One Workplace

 

Recently we came across The-Otherside, a firm which is doing some amazingly creative work that pushes the boundaries of what video can do. We were thrilled to see they did a 360 degree video tour of one of our projects, One Workplace’s headquarters and showroom in Santa Clara.

If you haven’t had the opportunity to walk through a Blitz project yet, consider this your chance to do so (virtually). And for the story behind the space, be sure to check out the One Workplace project page here.

GRAPHICS AND WAYFINDING AT OPTIMIZELY

After working with Optimizely on the design of their San Francisco headquarters, Blitz joined up again with the company to add signage and branding to the new space. Using the company brand and the newly established interior design aesthetic as references, Blitz developed custom wall graphics and floor signage to be applied throughout the space.

The custom “A/B” window graphic nods to Optimizely’s position as an A/B testing platform, and provides privacy as well as add a layer of branding. The floor signage transforms one of the space’s three-dimensional design motifs into a two-dimensional directional symbol for wayfinding. For more photos of the space, click here.

PACIFIC BUSINESS GROUP ON HEALTH

With the competition for prime urban real estate at an all-time high, it is more important than ever to consider the value of real estate optimization and compression. Pacific Business Group on Health, one of the nation’s leading non-profit business coalitions focused on health care, was one such company interested in the value of compression. The company was ready for a move, but the San Francisco market was formidable, and it was clear that a smart and careful approach would need to be made.

Blitz stepped up to the challenge and helped PBGH not only assess its operational requirements, but also design a professional, attractive new workplace. By moving to a more open space plan, with a variety of differentiated areas for common use, PBGH was able to increase collaboration between teams and enhance its brand while also occupying a smaller per person footprint than their previous space. The end result is modern and chic, with a smart, cost-effective use of space – a perfect home for the professional firm in the city.

Chartboost’s Dino-mite office mascot

Dinosaurs are a serious thing for Chartboost, so when it was time to design a new office for the company, Blitz searched far and wide for an optimal T.rex. With the help of One Workplace, Blitz finally found the perfect 22-foot-long and eleven-foot-tall specimen. Getting such a large fixture into the mid-century office building was no easy feat, however (see the delivery photos below). It took a very long journey and an abundance of helping hands, but the extra effort paid off: Chartboost’s Tyrannosaurus Rex now reigns over reception and greets all visitors with style.

Dubbed “Buster,” the dinosaur has become the Chartboost mascot – they even developed their first in-house mobile game starring the T-Rex.   His custom T-shirt is on on the way and will be changed each time the company designs a new shirt. It’s safe to say he’s very much a part of the team now.

For more photos of the Chartboost office in its entirety, check out the project page here.

A MODEL FOR A MODERN OFFICE

This preliminary office design was modeled for a forward-thinking, confidential client. The client was seeking an upscale and cutting-edge new space, but was limited by budget constraints. To meet such a design challenge, Blitz looked to raw, industrial materials that are cost-effective but could be elevated in their use.

Blitz wrapped the meeting rooms with flush-mounted steel, perforated to create a subtle, branded pattern. Slices in the steel expose view panels that create moments of reveal, extend sight lines, and improve circulation through the space.

Areas of importance, such as the boardroom, are slotted through with exposed glass at both ends. The clean, monochrome exteriors of these rooms speak of polish and restraint, but the interiors are cut with color and materials to delineate areas of importance and focus. As illustrated by the renderings, the result is a sleek, modern workplace – imbued with an upscale aesthetic, but also designed to support practical day-to-day operations.

PERFECT SQUARES

Although Blitz is by no means an old firm yet, we still like to go back through the archives from time to time and look through past projects. Recently, we looked through the interior design work we had done for Square’s old office and pulled out this photo of a customized solution we created for the payment processing company.

With dimensions that work out to form perfect squares, the custom padded booths are not only a fitting visual reference to the company’s logo, but they also create an equally perfect spot for both relaxed focus work and small head-to-head discussions. And, because few things in life are more comforting than being able to put your feet up, little square nooks were added at the bottoms so that users can remove their shoes and keep them close.

Cruise Through Optimizely’s High-Tech HQ

 

TechCrunch Cribs is on the scene again, this time touring through Optimizely’s San Francisco headquarters. Click on the video above to see some of Blitz’s recent interior design work in action.

A young but rapidly growing company, Optimizely has already established itself as the leading A/B and multivariate platform in the world. For the new office, Blitz focused the design around a minimal, modern aesthetic and added science fiction-influenced touches that reflect Optimizely’s bold trajectory into the future of tech.

TAKE A STROLL THROUGH CROWDTILT’S NEW OFFICE

 

Recently, TechCrunch Cribs toured Crowdtilt’s new office in the SoMA. Check out the video above for a look into the open and inviting new space, which Blitz had assisted in designing.

For the busy team that is hard at work on making group-funding a painless process, Blitz helped design the new office to reflect a crisp, modern feel with a touch of reclaimed organics. We’re happy to see the Crowdtilt group enjoying their new HQ, and hope they continue to thrive in their verdant and bright San Francisco home.

447 Minna Street – Theoretical Renovation

Every once in a while we take a break from the break-neck speed of our day-to-day to have a little fun with a theoretical project. We set out on foot to explore the dingier parts of the SoMA neighborhood where our office is located and found this diamond in the rough: an old brick warehouse down a back alley that is falling into disrepair. Buildings like this force us to ask ourselves, “what if?” What if we activated the street level with a cafe and encouraged mixed-use functions on the upper levels? What if the penthouse level was renovated into brick-and-timber lofts? What if one of our awesome tech clients moves their offices here? 

Could we do it on a tight budget? Could we elevate simple materials (like plywood) by applying interesting geometries? Could this be the project to reinvigorate this part of the neighborhood?

The question “what if?” drives us every day to push harder, explore the unknown, and experiment with materials and form to come up with the very best solution that meets all of the project metrics for success.

Zaarly’s New Digs

 

Check out this video from Turnstone which showcases Zaarly’s beautiful new workspace. Blitz completed the interiors in a three week sprint from signed contract to move-in date.

“Hiring Blitz to design our new San Francisco HQ was a solid decision! We felt involved and integrated in the design process and always at ease because we knew Blitz was taking care of our project. They designed, managed and implemented the most

Zaarly space for us in only a few short weeks (including two holidays!). They really went the extra mile to get the job done – and done right.” - Matthew Smith & Marco Suarez, Creative Director and Lead Designer respectively, Zaarly, Inc

Make sure to check out Zaarly’s blog to see what they are up to, and also take a peep at Turnstone’s blog for great DIY and office-organizing tips.

 
 

DISQUS IS OPEN FOR BUSINESS!

“We hired Melissa and Seth for the redesign of our 4200 sq ft office space in San Francisco (SOMA), and I could not have been happier with the experience. Although we had a relatively tiny budget and a timeline of only about 6 weeks, they turned a boring and empty space into a vibrant, dynamic office that our employees love to visit each day. They listened closely to what we wanted (and even invited opinions directly from our staff), and gave us more. They were happy to use all of our existing furniture, and worked with us to purchase complimentary and affordable pieces that we can take with us when we move to our next office space in a few years. Beyond their obvious skill and creative intuition, Melissa and Seth were a joy to work with.

Their passion for their work is apparent, and they were always on point and energetic. I never had to ask twice for something, and they delivered as promised on every aspect of this job. They even negotiated with a difficult contractor (several times) on my behalf so that I didn’t have to worry. I would absolutely hire Melissa and Seth for any project I have to do. Ever. Seriously, I’m almost looking forward to the next time we have to move, just so I can bring them on board again.”

-Kim Weisberg, Office Manager

Check out the blog entry on Disqus’ page to see more pics and the team’s feedback on their new home!

Cool Case Product Design
Dwell, 2010

We love buildings, don’t get us wrong, but sometimes we like a little change of pace. So when this product design competition came along we jumped at the opportunity.

In the fall of 2010 www.coolcapitals.com and Dwell Magazine teamed up for the second time to create a “cool” design competition. The brief was simple: create a smart-phone cover design for both the iPhone and BlackBerry Curve that represent and fuse the unique cultures of the coolcapitals cities of Amsterdam, Antwerp, Valencia, Vienna and Zürich.

Designs had to include the capital city names and a graphic representation of each city.

Drawing from our own European experiences, the iconic, barrel train station immediately sprung to mind as the perfect indicator of location, while providing a center from which each of the city shapes radiates.

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