Flexibility is more than just a product feature for Silicon Valley superstars Automattic—it permeates every aspect of the company's culture. The tech firm behind web tools such as Wordpress and Polldaddy maintains a roster of nearly 200 employees, but its San Francisco headquarters is typically populated by only 15-20 of them on the average workday.
That's because they've implemented an atypical hiring model resulting in a team spread across 141 cities and 28 countries. With ample budget offered to employees for travel and a number of company-wide events that unite the full team, crafting Automattic's home base posed a unique challenge to designers: How to make an environment that's comfortable for 20 local employees, but capable of handling 10 times that?
"The design strategy was to strip down an existing warehouse to its essence, leaving structure and infrastructure exposed, and insert a simple adaptive 'sleeve' that would transform to serve various functions as it moved through the space," says Baran Studio Architects, who devised a strategy for Automattic's space called "Between 10 and 1,000."
They trenched the original concrete floors of the 15,000-square-foot warehouse and outfitted it with a power grid so workstations can be easily connected in any formation. The open workspace also features a game lounge, telecom room, library and a café that connects directly to the public right of way.
In addition to the overarching "plugged in" theme, the space's influences are as varied as the interests of Automattic's employees, who bear titles such as "Poet" and "Happiness Gardener." Some items on the list: technology, community, barns, recycled wood, rap and jazz music.
It's all held together by a clear vision to uphold the building's raw, historic charms. Ducts and plumbing are suspended and exposed; original windows were stripped and refinished; and metal, plywood and concrete elements run throughout.