Jul 17, 2015

Architecture: Whitepages office by IA Interior Architects

What started in 2013 as the simple request for a staircase at the Whitepages headquarters in downtown Seattle soon turned into a full redesign and renovation of the 25,000-square-foot office. After several conversations with Alex Algard (founder and CEO of Whitepages), the Seattle office of IA Interior Architects was ready to tackle the task, keeping in mind Algard’s requests, which included retaining and increasing panoramic views; creating space to encourage socializing, interaction, and chance encounters between employees; demonstrating that Whitepages is a dynamic, design-oriented company; and “providing a first-class workspace that won't be outdone by any other employer in Seattle.”

Throughout the office IA Interior Architects used the Fixate Loop line from Milliken Carpet and porcelain Shades tile from CrossvilleTile to line the floors. Easy access to wall-mounted bike racks embraces the cycling culture of the city. 

What seems like a tall order for any firm was a challenge that IA Interior Architects embraced. Driven by Whitepages’ open, interactive work ethic, they created an “office with no offices,” where every staff member, from the founding CEO to interns, have the same real estate: mobile desk, pedestal file, and work chair.

“In the same vein of creating a flat hierarchy, the workspaces are lined around the perimeter, affording everyone natural light and stunning views,” says Patrick Chatfield, a design director at the Seattle IA Interior Architects office, and the lead designer on the Whitepages project. “The new space reflects and incorporates the corporate culture of Whitepages–a transparent, efficient, dynamic, and fun workplace that responds to varied staff needs.”

The impetus for the renovation, the reconfigured staircase connects the upper and lower floors. Workstations and ancillary furniture are by AllsteelCOI, and Steelcase

Working with Chinn Construction, Chatfield and his team planned the two-floor renovation in three phases in order to allow the fully occupied space to continue business during the build. Reconfiguring the suite around a central staircase was just the start. The redesign eliminated all perimeter office and conference rooms, aiding in the open-flow work plan. Relocated central conference rooms with glass walls provide more formal meeting spaces, while breakout lounge areas in office corners provide alternate meeting zones.

A centrally located conference room allows privacy during meetings, while the glass walls still maintain the open-plan workspace and transparency so important in the company’s work culture. 

Upon entering the office, visitors are greeted with another oxymoron: a receptionist-less reception area. “You enter into an inviting, light-filled and transparent lobby with views into their great room, through the feature stair to the open offices beyond, and up to the 17th floor,” notes Chatfield. “The din and dynamism of watching staff gives the visitor a sense of inclusion.” A custom computer-and-phone kiosk allows visitors to check in, digitally messaging their contact to announce their arrival. On the wall surrounding the kiosk are pictures of all the Whitepages staff.

The “reception-less” reception area uses a custom computer-and-phone kiosk that lets visitors check in digitally. 

Adjacent to the reception area is the great room, a reconfigurable area that is the “cultural hub” of the company. Full of modular furniture and providing access to a large white board, the great room is an area where employees are encouraged to gather for collaboration and conversation, or to step away from their desks for an alternate workspace. 

The great room is a space for Whitepages employees to gather throughout the day. 

Whitepages is a stellar example of a company nimble enough to evolve with the rapidly changing technology sphere, and their offices are a reflection of that. According to Chatfield, working with the employees was an important part of the job. “Client input was considerable and continuous through the design process,” he says. “It resulted in a design where every area had value, purpose, and functionality.”

Images Courtesy of Sherman Takata. 

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