Sanjay Gangal is the President of IBSystems, the parent company of AECCafe.com, MCADCafe, EDACafe.Com, GISCafe.Com, and ShareCG.Com.
Skype HQ in California by Design Blitz
September 1st, 2013 by Sanjay Gangal
Article source: Design Blitz
Skype’s primary goal was to create a world-class o”ce that would di!erentiate them from their Bay Area competitors in the recruitment of talent. Their new space not only had to be a design statement that reflected their modern but fun personality, but it also had to meet very specific acoustic requirements to support the company’s extensive use of AV. Skype hired Design Blitz architects to design their new North American headquarters on an aggressive budget and schedule. Despite being one of several new o”ces that year for Skype, the completed project ultimately became the standard for the international communications company and also achieved LEED Silver certification.
To really understand how Skype operates culturally, Design Blitz undertook extensive user-group surveying, and researched workspace typology before ever laying pen to paper. A significant portion of Skype’s culture is built around Scrum development (iterative idea generation) and a philosophy called ‘Agile Thinking’ (the a!ect of environment on thought process). To support Scrum, Blitz designed a system of mobile white boards called Skype-its that are distributed throughout the project.
The boards can be easily moved and stored depending on a development team’s process and requirements. Blitz also created a multitude of di!erent environments to support di!erent thought processes. All of the casual meeting areas are unique and there are three distinct phone booth types: light and bright for active thought; medium colored for meditative thought; and dark cave-like rooms for introspective thought.
Like many organizations, Skype required three distinct types of spaces: collaboration, contemplation and concentration spaces. Since Design Blitz believes that people, not conference rooms, deserve natural light, the architects took advantage of the exterior windows and located all workstations at the building perimeter (concentration).
They then worked their way back to the middle by degree of noise and distraction, with the noisiest functions being at the middle of the space (collaboration). Meeting rooms and phone booths were prioritized as no member of sta! had a private o”ce (an open floor plan with a benching workstation system was implemented). Contemplation spaces were interspersed in the form of overlapping casual lounges.
The building itself provided the greatest source of design inspiration. It was a dark and dingy space with years of tired tenant improvement projects layered on top of one another. While touring the site, Blitz popped out a few ceiling tiles and the opportunity to strip away the layers and reveal the existing structure became immediately apparent.
The architects made a decision to rip out all the existing ceilings and furring around the steel and never looked back. The resulting space is raw, industrial, and suggestive of a warehouse, which stands in perfect contrast to the highly refined meeting room pods that Blitz inserted into the open space.
The pods house the meeting and collaboration function and require a very high level of acoustic attenuation (far exceeding typical TI construction). To achieve the aesthetic of a floating pod (the pods are self-supporting) and achieve Skype’s acoustical requirements, Blitz had to develop a unique building typology.
The architects utilized a structural roof deck, commonly used in large span construction, that provided them with the structural diaphragm over the pods, provided a high level of acoustic attenuation, and also functioned as the finished ceiling. This multi-function quality was a key focus throughout the project – one item fulfilling multiple functions.
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