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Ground Control to XTX: A Sci-Fi London Office

Open the pod bay doors, Hal… it’s time to design an office for robots.


Stephen Bennett / Peldon Rose

London-based trading firm XTX Markets has built a new office space that’s all about the future. They know a thing or two about it: all of XTX’s traders are self-learning machines. Don’t worry, we’re not in Matrix territory yet… there are still plenty of humans keeping those machines in line. So XTX’s Kings Cross workspace is all about the blend of sci-fi tech with creature comforts.


Stephen Bennett / Peldon Rose

Design firm Peldon Rose took inspiration from movies like Tron and Blade Runner to create XTX’s new space, putting machines and servers on display behind glass walls with glowing blue lights. One hallway looks like something from Star Trek, with a working airlock door, a Battlestar Galactica cylon, and a moving mural of more than 30,000 LED lights. The company’s restaurant even has a replica of the Apollo 11 landing capsule, complete with seating inside. But there are also plenty of cozy spaces that are more living room than space station, with egg-shaped lounge chairs, inviting leather couches, and bunk beds.


Stephen Bennett / Peldon Rose

Maybe we can learn to live in harmony with machines… or at least, maybe we can design offices with that idea in mind. Take your protein pills, put your helmet on, and check out XTX’s new space in this video from Peldon Rose.


Stephen Bennett / Peldon Rose

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The Oak-town Cometh!

Hey Oakland, Get Ready to Work. Your time has come.

Bay Area residents are used to a few things: great weather, good restaurants, and fog on any major holiday involving fireworks. Unfortunately, another thing we’re used to is traffic. With many offices located in tech hubs — Mountain View, San Jose, San Francisco — lots of Bay Area residents take cars, shuttles, carpools, and BART on a daily basis. Commutes from the East Bay to San Jose can take upwards of two hours. Two hours on a freeway vs. telecommuting? No wonder people prefer to phone it in via FaceTime.

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What’s the fix for this commute nightmare? Enter Oakland, with a prime physical location, a downtown ripe for revival, and pre-existing major BART lines. Looks like Oakland’s ready to host a whole new generation of workspaces. The Mercury News reports that downtown Oakland is about to get a new office tower on a historic site, saying “Oakland’s time has come.” The new office tower is slated to be built on a lot next to the historic Key Building downtown, which will be renovated and connected to the new tower. The new tower is only a block away from BART and should be ready in 2019 — and it’s already 50% leased. Developer James Ellis thinks the BART location is a big deal for this tower, saying: “Tenants are really demanding that they are much closer to mass transportation than they used to.”


New office construction that blends historic with modern seems to be the trend in Oakland, and it’s hard to even take a headcount of all the new development projects in the works. TMG Partners is revamping a 1930’s Art Deco furniture store into office space, and plenty of other developers are looking into similar revamps. Uber has just sold Oakland’s former Sears building, and it looks like that Art Deco classic will also have a new life as office space. Harvest Properties has plans to renovate the iconic Tribune Tower. And with the Oakland A’s eyeing a stadium site at Jack London Square, the downtown skyline might look pretty different in a decade or so. (Come on, A’s, don’t leave us…)

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It’s not just tech companies driving the Oakland office boom, either. A wide range of industries are seeking out space in Oakland, and TMG Development Director David Cropper says that traffic and location may be the driving force: “Employers want to be closer to the East Bay not for the cheaper rents, but for all the stuff Oakland has,” Cropper said. “BART has always been important, but is even more important now that traffic is only getting worse.”

So, East Bay denizens, watch this space. Lots more to come on the booming Oakland office market…

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How did WordPress go so wrong in their office, that all the employees abandoned it?

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I’ve been deeply pondering this article for the last few months since the day I read it. WordPress, with over 500 employees, got 15,000 square feet of space in San Francisco to support its workforce. In their efforts to compete for hiring with Google and Facebook, they also told employees showing up was optional.  Employees could get a $250/month stipend to go to a co-work space.  Guess what happened?  No one showed up at the office and they’re letting their expensive office go. Poof!

What does this tell us about the future of work? Do offices matter? Do we want to be home?  The value proposition of WeWork and co-working at its core is certainly about removing loneliness, so it appears WordPress employees choose to work with strangers locally over commuting.

Ok… So we don’t want to be home alone, but we don’t show up for work.  We choose to work at WeWork or the local cafe over the co-working space our company provided.  How did WordPress fail?  Would a series of smaller micro-offices around the Bay Area have better served the company?  Would those have felt more lonely than WeWork?

As a former CEO, I never really loved when people worked from home. We tried it, but we definitely lost momentum.  My partner, who works at a giant software company, gets on her company-provided bus every morning at 6am and commutes 2 hours each way. Working from home for her is not an option and she’d probably feel very dismissed if she didn’t show up.  I don’t think the future of offices is no office. Offices need to evolve.

I believe that face time matters.  In-person matters. Avoiding loneliness matters. WordPress somehow failed in creating an environment worth going to. Maybe companies need a Chief Fun Officer.  I’d love to try to dig in over the coming months and interview ex-employees who lived through this and get their take. What are your thoughts?

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The Grateful Dead had the Wall of Sound, But Amazon has a Wall of Ground

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Appears there is a new kind of war between the titans: Google and Apple, doing their best to out-do each other on their Biophilic design. Now enter Amazon’s Spheres — Seattle Times has the best scoop yet.  Yes, I want to go there. Yes, It makes me want to work there. Yes, I’d brag to my friends.  I think if my work environment looked and felt like the outdoors but in a climate controlled environment, I’d be excited to go to work every day.

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LEED certification was so 90’s. We’ve moved into the “WELL Standard”

You’ve probably heard or seen the LEED logo on buildings near where you work, or if you’re lucky, on the building you work in. LEED ensures landlords are building spaces that adhere to green building design.  This has become commonplace for new building development, and next-generation builders are thinking about wellness.

The design of your office, from comfort level, to lighting, to air quality is mission critical when it comes to employee retention and happiness.  All hail the WELL standard!

Screenshot 2018-01-27 at 9.51.55 AMThe WELL Building Standard marries “best practices in design and construction with evidence-based health and wellness interventions. It harnesses the built environment as a vehicle to support human health, well-being and comfort. WELL Certified™ spaces and developments can lead to a built environment that helps to improve the nutrition, fitness, mood, sleep, comfort and performance of its occupants. This is achieved in part by implementing strategies, programs and technologies designed to encourage healthy, more active lifestyles and reducing occupant  exposure to harmful chemicals and pollutants.”

For someone building out workspaces, or for a developer thinking more endemically about how this plays into building construction, read their  documentation defining the standard. It’s free at their resource center.


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New Software Empowering Landlords and Tenants to be more “We-Worky.”

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Building owners and software companies are struggling to keep up with the tech-centric, community-centric WeWork. Enter HQO, a new kit piece of software enabling an easy entry point for making workspaces funky-fresh. One consumer-facing software app to rule them all, enabling:

– Visitor registration and room booking
– Transportation and shuttle integration
– Access to your parking garage
– Retail promotions
– Food ordering and purchasing
– Appointment booking and reservations
– Community directory and messaging functionality
– Event postings and building announcements
– Custom content to highlight tenant success and encourage community engagement

Check it out:

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Nordea’s new HQ in Copenhagen is a sustainable workplace of 2000 people, and the knowledge flows like a fine wine

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In the new Nordea headquarters, employees don’t have permanent workstations. A range of flexible rooms, multi-rooms, project tables, ‘phone booths’ and touch-down workspaces facilitate the mobility of employees throughout the day offering them to shift between varying working situations:

“Close to the facades, we have placed office spaces for focused work – creating a feeling of almost working on Amager Fælled. Through the façade design, we have ensured that workspaces have a daylight factor of 2%. This results in energy savings and in addition lead to comfort and well-being. A ventilated floor in the trading floor secures optimal air quality and cooling directly integrated into desktops guides heat away from trader floor computers recycling the heat.

On balconies ─ zones between the facade and the open atrium spaces, we have placed coffee stations and a range of the more informal work zones. Access to smaller, closed spaces with the possibility to meet more remote colleagues is a significant factor in securing the exchange of knowledge across an organization. In this way, employees in the new Nordea headquarters have the possibility to define and vary their workday in a healthy and sustainable environment. Participation, flexibility, and well-being lead to independence and job involvement.”


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Office of the week: Klap Verzekeringsmakelaar – Amsterdam

I love the warm inviting tones, dark woods and cozy vibe at this insurance company. Hell, I’d even work in insurance if I got to work here! The office embodies the Dutch’s mantra that everything must be “Gezellig”!!!

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All Hail the Rise of the “Resimercial” Workspace

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Article in today’s Commercial Integrator states that while the S&P 500 grew by 75 percent from 2003 to 2013, the design-centric companies that were studied grew by 299 percent!

The lines between the home and office are blurring. Homes are becoming more office. Offices in turn need to become more like our homes. Different types of collaboration require different environments. Modern offices need to include these components to allow for multiple forms of innovation.

Hit the link:

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Biophilic workspace design in your future

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Nice to see the New York Times cover new thinking in workspace design.  As someone who HAS to walk in nature on a daily basis, I’m all for a new era of “Biophilic” office design that incorporates nature into the office. We’re seeing it with the Apple orchards around Apple’s new UFO headquarters, as well as Google’s indoor natural world.