Designer: Studio O+A
Client: The Giant Pixel Corporation
Location: San Francisco
“Clever details make this project stand out. It has a sophisticated palette that is a departure from the typical startup aesthetic, with textures that are both raw and refined. The furnishings and bold lighting choices reinforce the individuality of the design.” -Jury
An interior with its roots in the industrial past has been reimagined as a space-age version of the Eames workshop by Studio O+A for San Francisco tech-startup Giant Pixel. Concrete walls and heavy wood joists were left exposed in this former printing press built more than a century ago. A few new design elements—including a suspended fireplace, orb-shaped speakers, and plenty of chrome furnishings—reference the groovy 1960s. Still, other new elements bridge the eras, such as a cantilevered white concrete desk and a water-jet-cut room divider made of cold-rolled steel.
“The clients gave us a lot of leeway, and they had the same interest in getting a good product,” says Neil Bartley, senior project manager at San Francisco–based Studio O+A, led by Contract 2011 Designers of the Year Verda Alexander and Primo Orpilla. The successful tech entrepreneurs who founded Giant Pixel—a company that programs gaming applications—are similarly passionate about design. “I’ve always wanted to work in an awesome office,” says co-founder Alan Braverman. “And I wanted to build a space that our friends and people from neighboring startups would want to visit, to help us recruit engineers and designers.”
The star of the reception area is the show-stopping concrete desk, a custom piece by Oakland–based Concreteworks. Its hollow concrete shell is supported by an internal steel structure that is bolted to the frame of the building. At the entrance, a divider of cold-rolled steel has been water-jet cut with a pattern of binary code that spells out the text of the opening crawl of Star Wars. The team’s intense dedication to detail can be found in subtler touches elsewhere. For instance, conference room tables often have solid bases to conceal wiring, but the tables in Giant Pixel have been custom-designed by Los Angeles–based MASHstudios with cutout bases to create a sense of transparency.
The two-story office is outfitted with open Knoll Antenna Workspaces as well as standing desks to accommodate different modes of working, while whiteboards of glossy back-painted glass promote brainstorming. The office has three private meeting rooms, as well as a living room area defined by a midcentury inspired Fireorb fireplace suspended from the ceiling, curved plywood Jehs+Laub Shrimp chairs, and soft Arper poufs.
Work also occurs in the basement, where staff gather in the company’s lounge and program next to each other on banquettes upholstered in caramel calfskin. The polished underground space, which Bartley describes as “the speakeasy of the future,” has a long bar with custom millwork and stainless-steel fittings. Several vintage arcade games are handy for blowing off steam. The lounge-appropriate mood lighting includes Sonneman Orb chandeliers and a strip of illuminated concrete along the edge of the ceiling. “It’s one of those little moves that are fun for a designer,” Bartley says. “It’s rare to get to that level of detail in commercial interiors.”
Since taking occupancy about a year ago, the Giant Pixel team has grown into its new office space. The bar has become an incredibly popular spot—what was originally intended to be a monthly happy hour has become a weekly event—and, therefore, its white floor has already required refinishing. Braverman’s only complaint is that the Friday happy hour occasionally interrupts him in the throes of programming. “Our company is working on three projects at a time,” he says. “It’s a very productive space.”