Technology has made it easier to work from just about anywhere, which presents companies with a double-edged sword: They have unprecedented flexibility in their office layouts, but also the challenge of enticing mobile workers to come into the workplace. With bold and animated interiors by local firm INNOCAD, Microsoft’s Austrian headquarters in Vienna rises to and triumphs over this challenge. The designers strove to give Microsoft employees the feeling of being on a “working holiday,” says INNOCAD Principal Martin Lesjak. “It’s more like a hotel than an office.”
Interiors Awards juror Alan Ricks heartily agrees, praising the firm for taking “playfulness and the creation of unique and lively spaces in the office environment to a new level, melding refinement, detailing, and materials with fun.”
Central to the redesign of the 48,450-square-foot office is a series of gathering spaces entirely coated in white polyurethane—from walls to floor to ceiling—for a mod feel. Occupying the same location on all three levels, this core amenity zone consists of lounges, the main cafeteria, a smaller café, and a library. A gleaming silver slide provides a shortcut between the first and ground floors, a nod to the “anything goes” spirit of start-ups. This whimsical scheme supports impromptu meetings in “the new world of work, where we all run around with our smartphones and don’t need a desk anymore,” says Paul Zawilensky, Microsoft Vienna’s real estate and facilities project manager.
For other gatherings, there are 23 meeting rooms that each boast a unique interior, letting everyone choose their favorite setting. The Zen room, for example, features a low wooden table surrounded by floor cushions, as well as a rock garden; the Sphere room has exercise balls in lieu of standard chairs; the Ocean room houses an aquarium; and the Wood room is lined in larch wood to reference classic Austrian Alpine chalets. The all-important data highway is symbolized by the dynamically striped carpeting that runs throughout all levels.
Not the least significant, the office also reflects a modern awareness of the importance of nature and how it can invigorate the work environment. Along the main circulation corridors on the top two floors is a lush living wall, a nearly 30-foot-long vertical garden. Guests are greeted with the serene presence of another living wall, almost 50 feet long, when they enter the reception area. It is a counterpoint to the mural behind the reception desk, a giant X-ray image of the inside of a computer. In addition to nature and technology, design is also well represented here: Several sculptural Lotus chairs from Artifort provide seating for guests.
In developing the design, INNOCAD incorporated Microsoft’s own research about the ideal workplace, a program called Workplace Advantage. The open layout accommodates five main types of workers, ranging from “residents,” employees who stick to their desks, to “nomads,” those mainly on the road. For the Vienna headquarters’ 330 staff members, there are only 220 workstations, and of those designated workspaces, only 65 are assigned. So even though the new floor plan expanded gathering spaces, total square footage needs were reduced by 10 percent, with a proportional reduction in maintenance costs. And, according to Microsoft’s Zawilensky, the redesign produced a 30 percent increase in the satisfaction of employees and vendors alike. “The new office [shows] our customers and partners the benefits of our key products and the inspiring possibilities of a 21st-century lifestyle,” he says.
: Arge Koop/INNOCAD Architektur.
: Porr Bau.
: Amstetten (lighting); Die Haustechniker; Gleisdorf; Feldbach; Jennersdorf; Landsteigner (electric); Lugitsch; Rabl; Thier (mechanical); Vatter.
: Permanent Units.
Wallcoverings, paint, laminate, walls, flooring, glass
: Porr Bau.
: BEGA Gantenbrink-Leuchten KG Deutschland CANYON; DISC-O; FRAME; GEAR 3; Jane; Lande Productie Schijndel; Wanda; XAL.
: Arper; Artifort; Buzzispace; Fritz Hansen; Kartell; Lammhults; Lotus; Theo; Steelcase; Vitra; Wiesner Hager Mobel.
: Arper; Bene; X-Tec.
: IKEA; Interio; Kare.
: Feldbach; Thier.