How do you create a workplace that can expand gracefully as a company grows? San Franciscobased Studio O+A confronted that design challenge head-on when working for a repeat customer: wireless networking company Cisco Meraki. Studio O+A, which designed the office a few years ago, was recently commissioned to handle the expansion. “It’s rare to have the chance to go back and revisit a project, but here we had a great opportunity to see how we could improve things after a few years of occupancy,” says Studio O+A’s co-founder Primo Orpilla.
Before tech behemoth Cisco acquired it in 2012, Meraki was a quirky startup of engineers who liked to hold meetings in a yurt inside their vintage warehouse office in San Francisco’s Mission District. Rapid expansion led the company to seek new digs in a modern six-story office building in the city’s Mission Bay neighborhood. In 2013, Studio O+A designed the first two floors of Cisco Meraki’s new office, and later a third. Last year, it came back to tackle a fourth floor.
In the initial project, Studio O+A emphasized a range of working environments, part of the de-corporatizing approach to design that the firm has become known for. “We wanted the employees to have as much control and choice over their environment as possible,” Orpilla says. “They can reconfigure their workstation to be in a line or in a horseshoe shape. They can also take their work and move to different parts of the building.”
On the L-shaped floors, the design team interspersed desk areas with open lounges, sunken conversation pits, and yurt-inspired octagonal booths. To retain a sense of Meraki’s original environment within the sleek new setting, they incorporated a number of wood finishes, even adding an exposed wooden ceiling to the lobby and custom tables from MASHstudios. The color palette emphasizes aqua and teal to complement the views of San Francisco Bay.
Cisco Meraki grew rapidly, and many of the office’s lounge areas became co-opted by desks. As employees “hacked” the space to create their ideal environment, it also became cluttered; tall racks of networking equipment, personal furnishings, and team flags hanging from the ceiling mingled together with workstations in idiosyncratic configurations that would give most facilities managers pause.
So when Studio O+A returned to design the expansion in 2017, it anticipated the company’s future increase in headcount. The nearly 56,000-squarefoot floor currently holds about 400 people, but is designed to accommodate up to 500. “The idea is still to provide the flexibility of different work areas, but we had to plan ahead for filling in those spaces,” says Joseph Rodriguez, design director at Studio O+A. “So instead of putting those different work environments among the workstations, we put them along the main circulation routes. There are a dozen places that they can infill, but it’s also very clear where they can’t.”
The circulation routes are strongly defined by lining up the meeting rooms and enclosed booths, keeping the two main axes of the floor distinct. Using the layout to define space allowed the designers to simplify the flooring; on the earlier floors, the circulation route is designated by wood, while the workspace has carpet and the lounge areas have cork flooring. On the new floor, everything is covered in the same Interface FLOR carpet tile, save for areas with food. “It became clear that the delineation of floor space was going to get hacked anyway, there was no point in changing the surface treatment,” Orpilla says. “People should be able to do whatever they need to make their work more productive.”
The design of the new floor acknowledges that the perfect space may be one that its occupants can perfect for themselves. Raised floors in the whole building allow for easy reconfiguration of workstations. To provide more storage, the design team added a wall of built-in cabinetry to each workstation area— with doors that became an alternative place to hang team flags. Another new feature: a designated “quiet room” that is off-limits to technology. Studio O+A furnished it, but since then someone has added their own chair to enjoy the view.
Who Interior designer: Studio O+A. Project team: Primo Orpilla; Joseph Rodriguez; Rachelle Meneses; Nikki Hall; Alex Bautista; Amy Young; Nick Escalante; Ryan Barr; Erin Mallon. Contractor: Principal Builders Inc. Engineering: WSP (MEP); PLM (structural); The Fire Consultants, Inc. Graphics: Studio O+A. Furniture Dealer: COG.
What Wallcoverings: Fireclay; Daltile. Carpet: Interface; Modulyss; Milliken. Lighting: Volt Lighting Group; Luminii; Tech Lighting; Rich Brilliant Willing; Finelite; CSL Lighting; Bartco; Focal Point; Amerlux; ALW; RBW; Normann; Niche Modern; Peachtree. Furniture: Herman Miller; Blu Dot; Haworth; Studio Meike Harde; West Coast Ind.; GamFratesi; Hightower; Knoll; Kasthall; Grainger. Furniture: West Elm; Hive Modern; Modernica; Design Within Reach; CB2; Hay; Bo Concept; Room & Board. Seating: Herman Miller; Dauphin; Fiore; Gus Modern; Article; Blu Dot; Knoll; Tolix; Design Within Reach; Emeco; Haworth; custom designs with PAW. Upholstery: Febrik; Maharam; Knoll Textiles. Tables: Custom designs with MASHstudios; West Coast Industries; CB2; Blu Dot; Gus Modern; Room & Board; Hay; Bo Concept; HEM; Hightower. Storage systems: Custom by PAW. Outdoor Furniture: Design Within Reach; Bend Good; Loll Designs; Wayfair; Blu Dot. Architectural/custom woodworking: PAW Architectural Woodwork Inc. Signage fabricator: Sun Graphics Architectural Signage. Plumbing fixtures: Vola; Niagara. Planters: Veradeck