The tech startup Mecca known as South of Market in San Francisco, or SoMa, is known for its open floor plan warehouses and buildings. The many companies that have set up shop here do so not only for the convenience of nearby BART stops and the financial district, but also to design the kind of offices that can’t be fit inside more traditional office buildings. Constant Contact, an online marketing company focused on small businesses, recently set up their San Francisco office in SoMa and as expected, their offices are the mix of spacious, clean, and industrial that has defined businesses in SoMa.
The plans and ideas for the new Constant Contact offices at 85 Second Street were all based in flexibility. Moveable furniture, open work and social spaces, and white boards that can be rearranged around the office were designed and brought in by the architects at NicholsBooth and Visnick & Caulfield Associates of Boston. Nothing is too closed off in the front part of the office, which works perfectly for Constant Contact’s mantra of collaborating.
A running theme of openness and cooperation is apparent. For the flow of the floor plan, the architects wanted to keep it as open as possible, leading from more social work areas and filtering back into the meeting rooms. The front of the office, by the reception, has no solid walls; just partitions and mobile white boards. “Gone are the impersonal cubicles and corner offices,” says Mark Schmulen, general manager of social media at Constant Contact, in a prepared statement. “Instead, the open work environment with stand-up desks offers a great space for getting things done, while the lounge seating with leather couches and comfy chairs provide outlets for group collaboration.”
The high ceilings are decorated with hanging lamps as well as exposed pipes, a common sight in SoMa offices. It has a bare and functional look, accented with tall, omnipresent windows. Many SoMa offices have embraced the bare bones look of the more industrial buildings, keeping basic window settings and concrete walls. Constant Contact has done this perfectly as to keep the original feel of the building while updating it and making it a work place that people would want to come to every day.
The color scheme of the office borders on minimalistic—mostly grays and whites splashed with the occasional interjection of color through bright rugs or art work. One meeting room in particular is decorated entirely in white, made even whiter by those windows again, with the only bit of color being two large blue tiles on the ceiling and a decorative streak of yellow across the windowsill. The small shots of color come in odd forms: a bright exterior of an arcade game, potted plants, or even a fruit bowl placed on an entirely white table. The lamps that hang from the ceiling, while not gray or white, still play into the subdued palette, being composed of earth tones ranging from dark brown to a beige color.
Overall, the design of the office is simple and uncluttered. Working with a space with such great shapes and flows, Schmulen says it was easy to bring out the productivity on the blank slate. “The space is uniquely designed with a central, flexible open space,” he says, “with movable furniture that accommodates meetings large and small.” Another point for collaboration; instead of gutting the new office, they worked with what already existed.
Some might see the office as being stark and maybe even a bit sterile, but Schmulen doesn’t agree. “The 20-foot high exposed ceilings and mixed concrete floors give the space an industrial feel that contrasts nicely with the natural light and sidewalk view of one of San Francisco’s busiest street corners,” he says. Besides, to use the architecture that was already there, they couldn’t go with a look that was overly decorative but rather add fun and life to a simple design. “That energy,” Schmulen says, “coupled with accents like basketball hoops, a ping pong table and video games, provide a great space that encourages both work and play.”
Design Architect: Visnick & Caulfield Associates
Executive Architect: NicholsBooth
Photographer: Chad Ziemendorf
Furniture: One Workplace
Project Manager: Studley