FENNIE+MEHL Architects designed Microsoft’s offices in San Francisco to help the company market the launch Windows 8 and Windows Phone.
For the new products to be successful, Microsoft had to pitch in and help its channel partners create new consumer apps for the platforms. And fast. So Microsoft requested a space where its own innovators could huddle with its clients’ marketers, engineers and designers to dream up new and unexpected product designs, a process that typically requires a 90-day incubation rate.
Fortuitously, Microsoft had an 18,000 square-foot brick and timber building sitting empty in San Francisco’s SOMA, the hub of high tech’s design and marketing. The biggest challenge? Most of the potential collaborators would be strangers to each other, maybe even slightly suspicious of each other. So, how to create a collaborative culture from scratch? How to design a warm and welcoming space for at least four teams of 15 to 20 people, each space inspiring trust and creativity? Oh, and do it on a shoestring budget of $84 per square foot.
The result is Microsoft 415, a collection of pod-like work spaces, one for each team at work in the building. (Currently, just 10,000 of the 18,000 square feet have been constructed.) Residential furniture, and lighting, as well as warm wood walls, telegraph a welcome for new arrivals. Each pod contains bench seating with workstations set at cozy five-foot intervals. The seating surrounds an arrangement of moveable, modular sofas facing a floor-to-ceiling white board, a relaxed place to hang out and brainstorm throughout the day.
To hold down expenses and create a sense of mystery about the work that each group might be doing, silvery floor-to-ceiling drapes, which hang from ceiling tracks, can be pulled to surround each pod. A dozen glassed-in offices and meeting rooms. line the studio periphery, allowing for some privacy and a change of scenery during long work days.
Design: FENNIE+MEHL Architects
Photography: J. Edgar Fennie Jr.