By Jack Stubbs
“Working with Snap Inc. was great. Every client has their parameters and requirements that we need to work around and one of theirs was the schedule. But it wasn’t a compromise to go in and use a significant portion of an existing space, because ultimately most workspaces require some amount of meeting space, social space and work space,” said Melissa Maddux Renner, project manager and design lead of a office project in downtown Seattle. “With [Snap] being a younger and growing company, this was one their first projects that really started to be a kind of office-tower high-square-footage workspace.”
In the current period of growth and densification occurring in certain areas of Seattle like the city’s downtown core, project teams are looking for ways to design office projects to meet the specific needs of their clients. The same was true of SkB Architects’ Tech Media Office project, a 45,000 square foot build-out located at 2025 1st Ave in downtown Seattle.
The team for the Tech Media project includes SkB Architects (interior architecture and interior design), Schuchart (general contractor) and Hannah Rankin (photography and photo artwork).
Snap Inc. took three floors comprising 45,000 square feet across Market Place Tower in downtown Seattle in a move that will accommodate approximately 300 of the company’s employees, and the company continues to occupy space two blocks down the street at 101 Stewart Street.
SkB completed the build-out for the three floors office space in Market Place Tower—which was formerly occupied by Redfin—in 2017. Throughout the planning and designing process, one of the challenges faced by the architect was how to meet the tight budget and time-frame of the company, according to Renner. “When we were initially engaged with Snap, they had a very ambitious schedule to the point where it almost seemed unachievable. But once we got into the project we ended up having a bit more time than originally planned,” she said. Speed-to-market was especially important to Snap Inc. given that the company was experiencing intense growth and wanted to consolidate their footprint in Seattle from multiple off-site locations.
Design of the first phase occurred in under four weeks down from a more typically five-month time-frame, and construction time was was cut down to eight weeks from the standard 20-week schedule. Additionally, the fourth floor was built out on a “Subject to Field Inspection” permit to expedite the process, which allowed the construction team to get started immediately on floors five and six.
Previously occupied by Redfin, the office space was formerly comprised of a series of private offices—SkB looked to repurpose and redesign the space to meet the needs of Snap while also leveraging the existing infrastructure such as formal conference spaces an office areas. “Part of our challenge was to take that space and touch it as lightly as possible but still completely redo it so that it felt like a Snap space. They didn’t want it to feel like it was anyone else’s space,” Renner said. “Even though the the needs of the previous tenant didn’t match what Snap needed, we were able to take what was there and rework certain spaces where those gaps were.”
In order to encourage the socially-engaged culture of Snap Inc., SkB implemented certain design moves to ensure that the new space would fit the needs of the growing technology company. The architect incorporated a furniture-based solution to visually and physically open up the interior space: window-wall seating areas are minimally separated from one another by translucent colored glass panels to reference the company’s color palette while also preserving the adjacent views to Elliott Bay.
More generally, one of the objectives with the project was to create a more causal work environment for the company, which is headquartered in Venice, California. According to Renner, one of the goals with the 45,000 square feet of office space in Market Place Tower was to foster a sense of flexibility and collaboration. “Historically they’ve been in kind of smaller offices, and that type of space is very different than a workspace in an office tower in a central business district. One of the things that we wanted to do from the very beginning was make sure that it didn’t feel like a typical workspace,” she said. “We looked at lighting, materiality and planning to break up the floor plate so that there would be various zones and areas that could feel like smaller neighborhood kind of experiences; we were trying to create these areas to help the space feel a bit more approachable with more informal furniture and work zones.” The space features a variety of private nooks, small impromptu meeting areas and DIY furniture configurations.
Beyond the walls of Market Place Tower and in the broader context of Seattle, Renner thinks that the flexibility of interior spaces continues to play an important role when it comes to the decisions of growing companies like Snap Inc. “I think a lot of it comes down to flexibility. As tech has really gotten its legs underneath it, the thing that [Snap] knows more than anything is that it’s going to change and that their needs will change. Snap knows that they are going to reconfigure their space every six months or every so often based on evolving projects or team needs,” she said.
Accordingly, SkB also looked to reflect the character of Snap Inc. as a company through the interior programming of the space. In each of the meeting spaces, the architect incorporated full-scale photography featuring various local Seattle coffee shops, parks and other points of interest around the city, with each of the three floors given its own theme. “One of the things that Snapchat does is that it allows you to be in the photo but manipulate it and make it yours; so we took an approach to inserting locality into all of the different floors. What we looked at overall was trying to tap into the ethos of Snap Inc. as a camera company—to try to find moments of being ‘in the photo,’” Renner said.
Ultimately, the various programmatic elements incorporated into the space looked to encourage collaboration and continued flexibility for the company, and also more broadly looked to provide a more long-term home for Snap Inc. in Market Place Tower in the heart of Seattle. From a design perspective, no stone was left unturned to achieve this end. “All of their employees committed to being in Seattle. The building also has really great views right on the water, so there was a lot of the planning in terms of where we put the social spaces and cafe areas, which were all oriented based on where you’d want to be in the afternoon to experience the views and sunlight,” Renner added.