By Jacob Bourne
Featured in 2015 as one of Fortune’s Best Places to Work in the U.S. for 16 years running, Adobe Systems Inc has exemplified devotion to its employees through a significant headquarters renovation in San Jose. The designers at Adobe and Gensler who smartly reimagined the three towers at 345 Park Avenue, didn’t limit the scope of the project to physical spaces, but extended the overhaul to workplace culture with an emphasis on employee health and wellness.
“Our West Tower was the first tower built on the site by Adobe and it opened in 1996,” recalled Justina Hyland, senior project manager, Adobe. “So 2016 was its 20-year anniversary. The building was beautiful when it was built but everybody would also say that it felt like a bank. It just didn’t look like Adobe, not the colorful company you think of.”
“It was all granite covered and seemed very cold,” Hyland continued. “It was beautiful but people wanted something different. They wanted it to feel like a creative tech company.”
Beginning in 2014, Adobe embarked on a renovation project that would speak to the creativity, spirit of innovation and collaboration that already existed within its walls. The three structures — West Tower, East Tower and Almaden Tower — stand between 16 and 18 stories tall and total 989,000 square feet of office space serving 2,500 employees, making Adobe the largest tech company in Downtown San Jose. Gensler led the renovation for 143,000 square feet throughout all towers, and though the workplace reimagining canvas was extensive, the designers effectively tied the project together by focusing on adding open communal areas to connect the large workforce and carving out alternative work spaces that foster community. One way this was executed was by enabling spaces to carry out multiple functions; conference rooms double as ping pong arenas and dining booths equipped with power outlets, give the entire office environment an air of playful camaraderie.
The largest community space in the West Tower facilitates numerous uses with a stylish blending of gaming zone, coffee bar, retail store, and employee support center, which are united by an assembly area accommodating up to 700 people for events like all-hands meetings, addresses by the CEO and guest speeches such as a past appearance by Madeleine Albright. The adjacent temPLATES café seats 350 people for a global comfort food experience, learning kitchen and conference room, and is one of many eatery options at Adobe, including an artisan sandwich shop in the East Tower and a farm-to-fork gourmet café in Almaden Tower, which only services dishes incorporating in-season produce. There’s even a completely separate nut-free dining option for those with allergies, featuring cheeky squirrel-themed accents to the decor.
As the Adobe towers are LEED Platinum certified, all renovation efforts adhered to environmentally sustainable materials and design. In many workspaces a default off-position for lighting systems has resulted in significant energy savings. The headquarters is over thirty-percent powered by 1.2 megawatt fuel cells, which are supplemented by utility grid power and windmills. Although the company doesn’t yet participate in the WELL Standard, many health and wellness features already exist in spaces. No effort was spared in the many facets of the Employee Wellness Center, which is an extensive area offering a fitness facility with weights, cardio, spinning, group classes and spa-inspired locker rooms, all free for employees. The Center also features personal training, a dedicated meditation room and massage room professionally staffed three days per week. Finally, first of its kind in a corporate setting, a “peace in a pod” somadome can be reserved in 20-minute intervals by employees seeking to relieve stress. The pod is located in a private relaxing room where acoustic and light therapy technology helps workers cope with difficulties. About 50-percent of Adobe employees participate in the Wellness Center activities on a daily basis.
In addition to a comprehensive array of employee-support services and innovative work spaces, installations by local artists imbue offices spaces with memories of Silicon Valley’s agrarian past achieved through the use of murals, conference rooms within greenhouses and community gardens. Living rooms are found throughout the office towers furnished with unique custom-made pieces, which are truly memorable.
“We really searched the Bay Area for handmade rugs and locally sourced furniture custom-made for us,” said Natalie Engels, design director, Gensler. “We looked for artists and makers in the community whose work we could showcase. There are a lot of creative people in the Bay Area, so it’s important to support locally made goods — it’s a trend that’s starting to grow.”
The renovation team has received positive feedback about the transition to open concept, collaborative work spaces, especially among younger employees. The shift has extended to executive offices, and though some older workers who’ve been with Adobe for decades were skeptical about the move away from more traditionally structured spaces, many have reportedly been pleasantly surprised by the new feel of the environment. The last four floors of the renovation are slated to be completed by June or July of 2017, including an experimental area named, Lab 82, designed to explore ways to keep the Adobe workplace ahead of the curve.