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Verda Alexander & Primo Orpilla

Their first clients were technology clients -- hardware, cables, server rooms and all that. It helped the founders of the San Francisco based Studio O+A, Primo Orpilla and Verda Alexander, to better understand engineers and the kind of workplaces they needed. It meant a completely different way of approaching the design of workplaces and was a great foundation for what they are today: the interior designers of leading internet companies like Facebook, Uber and Yelp.
In a conference room at their studio (designed by themselves, of course) they explained what they see as the difference between designing for technology companies and for other kinds of client.

To read the full interview,download the latest issue of ArchEdition

Verda Alexander & Primo Orpilla

What is it about a company that makes it special? What is its story? These questions underlie the workplace interiors for technlogy companies designed by studio O+A. "We strive to create environments that connect people back to being human.

Alexander: “Tech companies understand very well that to be on the leading edge you have to constantly reinvent yourself. And they also understand that the right working environment is key to that. The design of a workplace is crucial for employees if they are to stay creative, engaged and productive. More companies realize that these days, but twenty years ago it was really new to think this way. Those tech firms pushed us as much as we pushed them. It became our mission...

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Uber, San Francisco, USA
Yelp Offices

Do you think architecture has a lot of influence on productivity?

Alexander: “What really matters to human behaviour is the curation of the design. That is, what grows inside, the setting. We manipulate the interior spaces, we orchestrate the flow in the those spaces, and consider where the ancillary spaces need to be -- the lunchroom, the restrooms -- or how to round a corner. Every company has a kind of ecosystem that makes it run. Our job is to understand that ecosystem and create spaces that help the employees do what they need to do.
Companies invariably have a tendency for the vitality, the level of energy, to decline. A good workplace design can stimulate employees. Our goal is...

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Is the design of the workplace important in engaging the employee with the company mission?
Orpilla: “Absolutely. That isn’t to say that it didn’t happen in the past. There were lecture halls and cathedrals that were meant to inspire people too. But we are talking about the ten or twelve hours a day people spend in a workplace. You make your friends there, you have events there, and you may spend more time there than at home. So we ask ourselves how we can make these hours more reflective of life today. We strive to create environments that connect people back to being human. We distance ourselves so far from our social human nature by working on computers etc. that we need areas where we can socialize and connect to colleagues and others.”

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Cisco building