From Sweden to USA to Uruguay
As seen by the Powerhouse Group Design Team
Each year, design blogs come out with their top ten-or-so coolest (or most beautiful/striking/innovative) workplaces on earth and more often than not, many a click is amassed. The results are usually a mixed bag – ranging from the inspired to the kitschy, ingenious to preposterous, innovative to the merely decorative and everything in between.
Instead of doing the same, we decided to take a look at four buzzworthy workplaces over recent years and filter them through a Powerhouse Group lens. So, let’s get to it.
Bark – Ohio, USA
Industry: pet supplies
Hailed “the world’s most dog-friendly office for good reason, Bark’s HQ is as accommodating for four-legged friends as it is for two-legged employees. Dog lounges made of wipeable fabric sit to the side of desks, floors are made of accident-friendly materials and a dedicated canine exercise space takes up a chunk of its square footage. This isn’t a mere gesture, as up to 50 dogs roam the space during a workday.
Thematically, these choices are on point. What better place to go out if its way to accommodate dogs than a pet supply company? It all sounds quite lovely and more meaningful than novelty, in theory. In practice? We would imagine that a population of 50 dogs comes with its fair share of disruptions. It’s one of those ideas that sounds fantastic, but what happens when an employee needs to knuckle down and focus. Who can ignore the needs and behaviours of a passing furry friend?
CodigoDelSur – Montevideo, Uruguay
Industry: software developer
A sprawling 1920s mansion repurposed for the modern age is home to 80 Uruguayan techies who develop apps for the US market. A mixture of the timeless (lots of brown timber, Chesterfield sofas, restoration of the original décor) with the modern (video art, futuristic furniture, metal, tech elements) combine to create a steampunk feel that is both striking and well-considered.
This is a wonderful fit out that’s appropriately referential of geek culture’s fondness of dystopian fiction. It’s entirely successful in the meeting of its aims, which is both a compliment and a mild critique. The space’s theme is so hyper-specific, that one wonders, due to evolving tastes and preferences, whether the look and feel could come with a used-by date.
Bahnhof – Stockholm, Sweden
Industry – internet service provider
This world-renowned workplace, completed in 2008, was forged in an old Cold War nuclear bunker, deep in the bedrock of a Stockholm mountain. Inspired by science fiction movies such as The Empire Strikes Back, Silent Running, Logan’s Run and by James Bond films, this 11,950-sq-ft workplace could have been owned by a comic book supervillain.
This fit out is so particular and out there that it’s difficult to assess based on the usual criteria. It’s an irrefutable feat of design, but one wonders whether it would look the same if constructed today, considering the industry’s newfound cognisance of wellness. Granted, you’d expect any place that once-hosted Wikileaks servers to be removed from society’s reach, but certain areas in the space, regardless of their inclusion of greenery, are so shrouded in darkness that questions could arise over employee state of mind.
Moments in time
It’s interesting how in a very short space of time, wellness concerns can alter our perceptions (even if only slightly) of otherwise flawless fitouts. It’s also worth exploring that the line between hyper-specificity and novelty isn’t always clear cut and straddling that line can be risky – you never know what tomorrow will bring. The industry is forever evolving, which is both encouraging and a little daunting, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.