Location New York City
Size 15,000 square feet
Program A “public square,” informal kitchen/reception, workspace, small and large meeting rooms, and a game room
The concepts of team and creative inclusion are central to the ethos of Mapos, a New York City-based architectural design studio. When Colin Brice and Caleb Mulvena founded it in 2008, the intent was to create a firm that not only approached projects as idea-sharing forums but also had the capability to effectively manage such a creative team. “There can be strong voices in any project, but every project is a team effort, all the way from the client to the designer,” Brice says. That mentality is reflected in the studio’s design of the New York headquarters for LivePerson, an online marketing and web-analytics firm. To highlight the features of the space and the collaborative process by which they came about, gb&d took a look inside the office.
The Town Square
At the physical center of the 15,000-square-foot New York office is what LivePerson calls its Town Square. The idea for the open area came out of the collaborative working sessions that Mapos conducted with LivePerson when it was brought onto the project.
“It was very important to LivePerson that this hub of activity be located at the center of the office space,” Brice says. “They wanted to get people out and interacting with each other.” The area is used for impromptu meetings and guest lunches and also serves as a metaphor for the company culture on the whole, which strongly emphasizes the value of community. The lighting above the Town Square came from elsewhere in the existing space, repurposed here to reduce waste and cost.
In the corner, a glass partition can be used to separate the main conference room from the Town Square or folded back to further increase the open area. The multipurpose design of the conference room—known by LivePerson employees as Central Park—is a vital part of the Mapos approach. “One of the things we always try to incorporate into our design is flexibility,” Brice says. “How can one room have two different functions? Or how can certain spaces transform themselves?”
One of the most interesting aspects of the office’s design is not the end product but the process Mapos used to determine the office’s layout. In keeping with the culture of inclusion, the architects devised a game in which employees selected the purpose of each area within the space. “The game is an example of … the most interesting thing about this project,” Brice says. “We take a lot of time and energy to understand the people and get to know what they value—and then design a space around that.” The game involved groups taking turns placing colored game pieces that represented of the office’s future functions and uses. Blue pieces were workstations. Yellow pieces, meeting rooms. Brice says it worked extremely well. “We … acted as referees as the employees traded, haggled, placed the pieces, and at the end of the session, we had a workable floor plan that everyone had input on,” he says.
Certification Not applicable
Daylighting Large windows allow for extensive natural light, vital for both employees and interior plantings
Reuse Office lighting and interior elements repurposed from materials found throughout the existing space
Indoor Plants The metal mesh “hats” atop smaller meeting rooms serve as planters
Another creative collaborative session that occurred early in the design process involved various axes presenting design preferences, with each extreme on either end of the line. For example, a lot of light versus little light. Members of the LivePerson staff would take their avatars—goofy images to keep the mood light—and place it at a point on each axis. After they were done, a clear idea of the company’s preferences on the subjects could be seen quickly and easily.
Two LivePerson priorities were creating a green office that reduced waste and doing so on a modest budget. The paneling on the outside of the Central Park conference room achieved both. When the previous tenant moved out, it left almost everything in place—from the mechanical systems and lighting grid to the cubicles, millwork, and shelving. Mapos decided this created a significant opportunity for reuse. The shingle-style siding on the conference room is an amalgam of the different types of paneling from the existing cubicles and shelves, cut into 6-inch stripes and arranged in an attractive layered pattern.
The office’s reception area is unique. The kitchen is one of the first things that guests see. It was an idea that came of the gaming process, though employees were split over the decision. “The company wanted to be about openness and collaboration, and what room better personifies that energy than the kitchen?” Brice says. “Everyone gathers around the kitchen, so in the end that vote won out.”
The metal grate on the office ceiling was installed by Mapos in place of the standard white acoustic tiling seen in most offices. “We kept the existing grid but wanted to expose some of the mechanical systems and air handlers behind this metal mesh,” Brice says. The disc-like pendant lights, like those in the central meeting space, are reclaimed from what was left in the office. Below the lights, the company’s accolade wall is made from reclaimed wood and other salvaged material.
The smaller meeting rooms around the office are designed to accommodate the need of privacy on occasion. If the need arises to have a meeting or conduct a conference call, a closed-door space is available. The hat-type tops of these rooms made of metal mesh are designed to be planters and have recently been filled with live plants. “The space that LivePerson rented had massive windows that let in a large amount of natural light,” Brice says. “Incorporating plants was something we discussed early on.”
Sound control was a primary driver in the design on the smaller meeting rooms, Brice adds, so the interiors of these rooms absorb noise with sound-dampening acoustic material cross-hatched on the ceiling.