Photography by Hoffman Chrisman and Matthew Millman
Skype’s primary goal was to create a world-class office that would differentiate 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 offices 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 affect 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 different environments to support different 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 staff had a private office (an open floor plan with a benching workstation system was implemented). Contemplation spaces were interspersed in the form of overlapping casual lounges.