The entrance lobby at AOL's Palo Alto headquarters looks like a skate park (+ slideshow).
Just like AOL's offices upstairs, the lobby was created by San Francisco designers Studio O+A for the campus at 395 Page Mill Road, which is also home to other internet-based companies including security firm TrustedID and cloud computing company Cloud-On.
The skateboarding ramp spans the entire lobby and integrates a reception desk and a lounge area.
Adjacent rooms house a business incubator run by Stanford University students, as well as an auditorium, a gym, a cafe and a yoga studio.
Bicycles are docked on a column in the centre of the lobby, while helmets hang on the walls and both can be borrowed by employees.
Photography is by Jasper Sanidad.
Studio O+A's description of the project can be found below:
395 Page Mill Road in Palo Alto is the address of AOL’s new West Coast headquarters. It is also home to several small businesses—a coffee shop, a gym, some tech incubators—that occupy the same building. The 35,000 square foot ground floor area is divided into spaces ranging from 500 to 2,500 square feet. O+A’s design challenge was to coordinate these spaces and AOL’s public lobby in a way that builds community and fosters interaction. The solution: turn the complex and adjoining outdoor areas into a “campus.”
In keeping with that concept AOL has partnered with Stanford University to fill some of the building’s higher-profile spaces. The Ground Up coffee shop is a Blue Bottle cafe owned and operated by Stanford Student Enterprises. StartX: The Stanford Startup Accelerator is an entrepreneurial incubator with which AOL hopes to cultivate new ideas. Other tenants include tech venture firms Softtech, Morado Ventures and Imagine K12, the cloud computing company Cloud-On, identity security firm TrustedID and the management consultant company Medallia. AOL's in-house labs are also on this floor as are a gym, an auditorium, a yoga studio and bike racks with cycles available for check-out.
A unifying selection of warm wood finishes, all crafted in an urban-rustic style, begins the process of drawing these disparate elements together. The interior design of the Ground Up coffee bar compliments the alfresco seating and leisure elements in the outdoor plaza, which, in turn, echo the fine grain facades in the building’s spacious lobby. The result is visual continuity with just enough variation to keep the eye—and mind—engaged.
Perhaps the most engaging feature of the space is the plywood entry portal, a sweeping abstract skateboard half-pipe referencing AOL's beginnings. Seeking an iconic symbol of the 1980s culture into which AOL was born, O+A settled on this distillation of a skateboard ramp, a shape at once graceful and suggestive of youth, vitality and new thinking.
Common areas and paths of travel in the space encourage cross-pollination, not only between separate departments of AOL, but also between the separate entities in the building. The aim is to create communal energy, in essence to grow a little city at one location: organic, vital, adaptable to change. As with a real city, the consequences of this “urban planning” are never predictable, but always trend naturally toward growth and problem-solving.
Part of the “little city” or “campus” idea is a realization on the part of companies like AOL that their own creative advancement is enhanced by the proximity of like-minded people. The more amenities available at a given location, the greater the attraction to that class of creative, mobile, tech-fluent entrepreneur that is always in demand at Silicon Valley’s top firms. Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey have all spoken of the importance of the workplace in recruiting top talent. AOL's new complex at 395 Page Mill recognizes that when you’re competing with Facebook and Google, you need to have a cool sandbox.