Office Design as Mission Statement
Our office remodel is complete and we’re excited to share the final results with you. If you remember from a few months ago, we’ve been reflecting on how our physical space impacts our productivity and creativity, as well as our desire to create a space that reflects our mission of fostering an ecosystem where the sum is greater than the parts. The boxes reflect the various "actors" in this ecosystem: from social entrepreneurs to supporters, to social media mavens to artists to college students. Echoing Green senior vice president Lara Galinsky wrote on the Big Duck blog: "With our consistent growth over the past several years, injection of four new staff positions in just the last year, and preparation for our annual summer interns, our office was long overdue for a redesign for expansion purposes. However, we also saw this as a great opportunity to bring our brand to life."
We believed the layout of our work place should be a reflection of Echoing Green's culture and mission. Our architects, Taylor & Miller helped us bridge our brand and space, fashioning an office space that is bold, nimble, and innovative. Below, architect Alex Miller talks about the redesign process, working with nonprofits, and tips for organizations preparing for an office redesign.
ON A PRINCIPLE OF ARCHITECTURE
For both of us, the physicality of architecture was always critical. We’ve described it as architecture as verb. Not so much things, as what you do with those things. The Echoing Green office redesign is a study of very basic rudimentary materials, accessible materials, materials that are recognized by everybody, ubiquitous, and taking those materials with an artistic intervention, an assembly, to a higher level.
ON COLLABORATION AND PRIVACY
When we were having conversations with the Echoing Green team early on, we got this really interesting back and forth between everybody saying they wanted a collaborative space, but a collaborative space that still had individual private pieces. So, it didn’t make sense to use a very rigid furniture-based system. That type of system stratifies an office environment. You walk in and there is this datum line—the top of cubicles—that are subdividing a space that doesn’t need to be subdivided. The new design still has visual privacy and some version of acoustic privacy, and is also porous, allowing moments of interaction.
ON WORKING WITH NONPROFITS
We are artists and we’re architects and at the same time we do want to participate in everybody’s daily life. There are so many hours spent in the workspace. We really take that seriously. In the daily process of bringing people in to the office—of the inspiration that might occur—we hope we’re helping Echoing Green serve others. For us that’s real. It’s not just an affectation; we really embrace that.
ON OFFICE REDESIGN TIPS
Empathetically, I can see why it’s hard for organizations to understand what they might need, and an architect or a designer can inject objectivity into the conversation. The recommendation I would always make is this, think about the kind of office you want to be, don’t think about the space you are occupying, or even the furniture you are sitting on. Is it an open environment? Is it a collaborative space? Have an understanding about what you want your company to be. Ask: “Where do we see ourselves? What makes our work special?” Emotionally convey who you are, and what you are.
Another good question to ask would be, “How much space is enough space?” With Echoing Green, there was talk of all this expansion when interns come in, and you have this kind of breathing work force, people coming in and out. Most organizations try to maximize the amount of workspace that they have to accommodate extra staff like interns, but what happens when those people go away? That carcass is still there, and it doesn’t do anybody any good. You can get away with a lot less space if it is good space, and you understand how the people actually interact with it.
Working as a young architect, we also do the fabrication so we know how much things cost. It doesn’t have to be expensive to be good. There’s no reason that an office renovation can’t be pretty damn cheap and still be really inspiring.
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