ENCLOSING THE OPEN OFFICE
DESIGN CONSTRAINT: TO HAVE AN OVERWHELMING VISUAL IMPACT TO VISITORS, WHILE ALLOWING FREE EXPRESSION FOR THE STARTUPS WORKING WITHIN THE "PODS."
WHAT WE DID
Start Garden launched in 2012 with a fund of $15,000,000 and a very unorthodox deployment strategy - fund two ideas every week with $5,000 and see what happens. Some ideas went on to become projects and some of those projects turned into companies. By 2016 70 projects had received $20-50K each, 190 ideas had received $5K each and 22 startups had received $100-$500K each. This growth led to Start Garden finding a larger home in 2014 in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids - an expansive open space with an architecturally significant interior. The challenge quickly became how to give the startups working within the space freedom of expression in a semi-private 'pod' while maintaining with visual impact of the building and its interior. That's where we came in.
While the overall goal of the design work was clear, plenty of nuances existed to keep the challenge real. Ever-evolving teams had differing needs for the 'pod-space' that was to be created. A completed architectural interior meant installation needed to be quick and concise with little disruption to day-to-day activities. While 'modular' and 'furniture-like' seemed to be the right design directions, elements of customization and an overall feeling of permanence were going to drive this design even further.
In order to move from ideas and concepts to an actual build-able design solution we worked both digitally and physically. In fact, the team at Start Garden was already digging into the form and function of the pod concept when we came on board. They had constructed a life-size foam structure which helped them to evaluate what the size, space and feel would be like within the 'pod'. This physical model helped to better understand the value of openness versus privacy for the team.
We took this understanding and began to refine the design, taking into consideration engineering and construction constraints. All the while continuing to challenge what was possible and keeping an ever present consideration of the space and the end user. Slatted ceilings wrap down and become privacy screens. Sliding acrylic doors allow spaces to be closed and yet feel open. Marker board walls provide flexibility for teams from early brainstorming through idea refinement.
White oak, anodized aluminum, and acrylic were used to bring the design to life and allowed the pods to sit within the space without feeling heavy or obtrusive. Refined and highly technical production created pods that were defined by their details in addition to their functionality.
"No other shop works at the level of design, beauty and fabrication know-how than Studio Wise. They took a rough model and elevated it to a level of elegance that blew us away."