As 22squared’s lease on its Atlanta headquarters was set to expire a few years ago, the company had a decision to make: move or renovate. Two years prior, the advertising agency had undergone a major rebranding, emerging with a new name that references its post-web 2.0 strategy. 22squared equals 484, the number of people—the company deduces—an average person can expect to influence through friendship.
The agency’s innovative cross-disciplinary business model was at odds with its previous dark space, walled-off offices, and segregated departments. “It was a very old-think space,” says Richard Macri, design director at the Atlanta office of Gensler, the design firm of the new 22squared offices. “It was dead in feeling.”
But its location at the buzzing intersection of 14th and Peachtree Streets, with easy access to cultural hot spots and public transportation, tipped the scales toward staying—and handed Gensler a meaty challenge.
Gensler’s design team shadowed the young workforce—about 40 percent of the employees are under 30—and noticed that they were leaving the office to meet at Starbucks. To increase collaboration and knowledge-sharing among workers and departments, Gensler designed an office that feels like a second home and encourages random run-ins and meetings that can promote collaboration and creativity. First, office space was reduced from three floors to 22,500 square feet on two, bringing everyone closer together in the process. Within that new, more efficient footprint, the design team eliminated most walls and replaced many of them with glass panels to allow for intra-agency transparency.
Executives have enclosed offices but most of the work areas are open collaborative spaces that include benching, banquettes, communal tables, and other meeting space elements that strike a residential chord. With 70 percent of the remaining walls coated in a writeable finish, nearly every square foot is a potential work surface. “Now, two people walking down the hall can work on something right there instead of scheduling a meeting to talk about it,” says Macri. The WiFi-enabled workplace allows employees to pick up and move to different areas within minutes without involving IT or facilities. Networked videoconferencing rooms facilitate quick telecommunication with coworkers in 22squared’s Tampa, Florida office. “Teams come together and apart effortlessly,” says Mike Grindell, 22squared’s chief administrative officer.
Transparent glass walls also allow plenty of natural light to reach many workspaces, contributing to the headquarters’ LEED® Gold for Commercial Interiors certification. “Today’s 25-year-old is interested in working for a company that does right as well as it does well,” says Grindell, explaining why sustainability was a priority.
By reusing some nontraditional furnishings and building materials, the new office conveys a message that rethinking what one might consider mundane is a sustainable strategy. In previous years, the company had purchased furniture from Pottery Barn and IKEA to soften the corporate space. Gensler reused and revamped most of that, painting a set of espresso-colored Pottery Barn stools in the agency’s vibrant brand colors and reusing many old workstation components—from pedestals and desks to shelving and task chairs—to furnish executives’ private offices. “That made a great statement: The worker bees get all new stuff while the executives get used stuff,” says Macri.
Flooring is primarily recycled material such as reclaimed carpet and plastic. The wood floors were reclaimed from a mid-to-late 1800s-era Atlanta munitions depot, as well as a middle school in an Oregon district that happens to be where 22squared CEO Richard Ward grew up. Every day, he walks across a floor he may have shot hoops from as a kid.
The sustainable feature Macri likes best is the wall of undulating strips of recycled wood that greets people at the elevator. The concept behind it grew from the answer to a question he often asks clients at the beginning of a project: “If your company was a plant or a tree, which would it be?” 22squared replied immediately: During its rebranding process and development of its friendship model, 22squared was inspired by the ironweed, whose interlocking root network makes it indestructible. Gensler represented that abstractly with this wall, from which willowy lights grow skyward and creep across the ceiling. “It allows the company to tell its story while they’re showing clients around,” says Macri. Its storytelling properties help 22squared connect with prospective talent, new hires, and clients to a visual analogy so compelling and shareable, it just might go viral.
Architect and interior designer
Architecture and interior design team
: Stephen Swicegood; Richard Macri; Erin Greer; Teyanna Miles; Gail Malone; Troy Grichuk; Michael Machnic.
: Barrett, Woodyard & Associates.
: Energy Ace.
: Uzun & Case.
: OnSite Limited.
: MA Designs; Walltalkers; Weitzner Limited.
: Arpa; Laminart.
: Caesarstone; Polycor.
: Interface; ITW Resin Technologies; Johnsonite; Tandus; Wood & Co..
: Architectural Components Group, Inc.; Armstrong.
: Artemide; Arteriors Contract; Cooper Lighting; Graypants; Gotham; Litecontrol; Lucifer; Moooi; Restoration Hardware; Sundance; Vibia; Zumtobel.
: Southern Door & Plywood.
: Best; Glynn-Johnson; Hager; HES; Ives; LCN; Rockwood.
: H&B Storefront and Mirrors; McGrory Glass.
: Maharam; Reid Witlin.
: Archetype; Davis; Herman Miller.
: Corn Upholstery Company; Grandin Road; Maharam.
: Andreu World; Brueton Industries; CB2; HBF; Herman Miller; Horchow; Knoll; Viva Terra.
: Herman Miller.
: Cor Products; Paperstone.