MapQuest is one of the great survivors of the internet. Going online in 1996 and riding the dot-com boom into the 21st century, the company was acquired by AOL at the height of the bust in 2000. And while MapQuest’s parent company had its share of difficulties in the early 2000s, MapQuest itself continued to grow and diversify its business; today, it remains the web’s most popular mapping site.
To celebrate the company’s 15th anniversary, MapQuest enlisted the help of IA Interior Architects to design a new headquarters that would recapture the spark and excitement of those early start-up days.
“MapQuest is a collaborative, transparent and innovative team that moves at mach-speed,” says Christian Dwyer, senior vice president and general manager, MapQuest. “We wanted to create an environment that extended our brand and showcased our personality that embodies MapQuest’s vision for the next 15 years.”
Although the headquarters are located in a new building, its location in Denver’s historic LoDo (Lower Downtown) district, directly adjacent to several other historic structures, helped shape the space’s raw, stripped-down aesthetic. The design team left the shell of the structure largely unadorned, and exposed concrete forms a majority of the space’s walls, floors and columns. New structures for conference rooms, huddle rooms and private spaces were constructed along the only wall without windows, keeping the floorplate open and bright. Extensive use of metal and glass in the conferencing areas adds to the office’s raw and natural feel.
MapQuest officials also requested that the new space be environmentally conscious, says Stephanie Schmitz, project manager for IA Interior Architects, so a variety of repurposed building materials were incorporated into the design. Reclaimed snowfence from Wyoming is used to form a backdrop behind the office’s plasma television area, while highly renewable sunflower and cornhusk materials have been used for surfacing and millwork in the break areas.
In addition to the use of reclaimed materials, the incorporation of low-flow fixtures in the bathrooms helps reduce water consumption, and will aid in obtaining the space’s targeted Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification.
The workspaces have been kept similarly open and organic, with teams arranged in “work pods” that are designed to spur collaboration. Workstation heights have been kept low to provide a clear view from one point of the space to another, and while there are no permanent office spaces, the huddle rooms are located close by to facilitate meetings, one-on-one conversations and private phone calls among all members of the staff.
“The plan itself really promotes a lot of team meetings and open collaboration,” says Schmitz. “We really tried to keep everything fresh and open to the exterior.”
The huddle rooms have been designed to reflect the company’s desire to create a fun, invigorating environment, featuring funky furniture and vibrant carpeting, cast primarily in the company’s distinct purple and green palette, with a few other accent colors mixed in. Each room has been designated with a famous landmark, such as the Eifel Tower, the Coliseum and Machu Pichu, and an enlarged, simplified graphic of the corresponding map location is featured on the rear wall.
That playful sense of style appears in other spots throughout the space, with colorful MapQuest branding (composed of traditional map key graphics) found on the front of the teaming areas and in the elevator lobbies; a custom carpet representing a map of downtown Denver is used in the open office areas.
The result is a striking, organic space that channels the opportunity and optimism found in start-up ventures. The fact that the space came together on such an accelerated timeline—five months from ideation to relocation—makes it even more impressive.
“We had a lot of fun from start to finish—it’s not the first time that we’ve worked with MapQuest and AOL, so it helped that we knew our client quite well,” Schmitz says. “We knew what their expectations were, they knew what our design capabilities were, and we worked as a great team.”
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