Squarespace is in the business of developing brands. So it’s no surprise that the company—a website-building platform geared to the independent workforce—has a strong identity of its own. With spokesmen such as Keanu Reeves, John Malkovich, and Jeff Bridges (stars of some of the Millennial generation’s cult films) Squarespace, which began as a start-up in 2004 and now has nearly 800 employees in New York; Portland, Oregon; and Dublin, has relied heavily on the “cool” factor to attract a customer base and staff of young creatives. Likewise, the company’s new headquarters, in the 12-story 1927 Maltz Building, a former printing-district factory in New York’s West Village, exhibits a laid-back panache.
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At the building’s base, a storefront lobby features exterior details of blackened steel and wire-brushed larch wood, which contrast with the original brick exterior in a way that is dramatic yet subtle. Peering into the loungelike space from the sidewalk, passersby might take it for a hotel. The misperception would be understandable. According to project architect Eliane Maillot of New York–based Architecture + Information (A+I), the design team took inspiration from the Roman and Williams–designed lobby of Manhattan’s Ace Hotel, which functions as both a study area and parlor. The intent for the reception space here, says Maillot, was to create a work-away-from-work zone, a calming environment furnished with couches and coffee tables in lieu of desks and chairs. Adapted from a loading dock, the 5,300-square-foot space is the company’s exclusive entrance (all other tenants access the building around the corner). Elevators transport employees directly to the main office spaces, which occupy the top three levels.
The lobby sets the tone for the larger Squarespace experience. Its minimal palette of off-white paint and ebonized wood paneling for the walls and ceilings, as well as concrete floors and furnishings, extends throughout the multilevel interior. “The brand identity is very black-and-white,” says founder and CEO Anthony Casalena, “but you’ll never see a hard black or a hard white—we varied the materials to get lots of texture.” The 36-year-old tech entrepreneur wielded a heavy hand in instituting the office’s aesthetic. “I’ve come to understand the power of design,” he says. “When it comes to brand identity, if it looks clean and smooth, it has a lot more credibility.”
Casalena wanted the new offices to be polished yet anti-corporate, with a relaxed, free-flowing, and democratic feel. Previously, the headquarters were spread out across four locations in SoHo, where employees would occasionally rely on WeWork spaces for lack of sufficient meeting areas. It was essential that the company’s new home be well-connected and cohesive, as well as have a range of flexible environments suitable for all teams, including marketing, engineering, and design.
The Maltz Building’s vast open floor plates and wraparound windows provided an ideal template for translating the Squarespace brand into a workplace for its now 530 New York employees. Around the building’s vertical circulation core, A+I clustered back-of-house functions and meeting spaces, creating a primary path of movement around each floor’s perimeter, through the different work settings; the main desk areas anchor the building’s east and west ends. “For workstations, there’s usually a set logic of straight rows,” says Maillot, “but we didn’t think it would give the ambience that Anthony wanted.” Instead, banks of custom-made precast-concrete desks are arranged diagonally, creating a more dynamic feel while optimizing space by incorporating the building’s flared mushroom columns rather than working around them. Anticipating growth, the desks were designed to be modular and easily added to.
In addition to these designated work zones, where Casalena sits among his employees, there are a number of informal nooks catering to off-the-cuff collaboration: alcoves with whiteboards are carved out of the main desk regions; intimate breakout spaces are tucked away at the edge of the floor; lounge chairs are placed along the circulation route. “If you’re working through some ideas and need to get away from your desk,” says Maillot, “you have quick access to a variety of places, from semiprivate to more public.” To activate the space, the designers separated two stairways, placing one at the eastern end, the other to the west, encouraging people to walk across the floor to travel to the two connected levels. A large, rounded aperture cut through the slab opens the lowest of the three floors visually to both the others.
On a recent spring afternoon, the office buzzed, with employees in T-shirts and hoodies lying on couches with their laptops, coworkers stopping to chat over quick coffees, and even dogs following their owners around. Keeping the young staff happy has been key to Squarespace’s success, notes Casalena. A favorite perk is the daily catered lunch, which is served hot in an airy and daylight-infused cafeteria and bar at the top level. “Happy hour was definitely a big consideration,” says Maillot. Another bonus: the views. Either inside, or out on the roof deck, which provides an additional gathering area, occupants can relax, eat, drink, and work surrounded by a sweeping vista of the Manhattan skyline.
Casalena says the office has proven to be the right environment for productivity and creativity to thrive—so much so that A+I is currently renovating two more levels in the building, gearing up to accommodate the fast-growing staff (the New York team has nearly doubled in size since moving in 2016). Now in its 15th year, the company has come a long way from its beginnings in Casalena’s dorm room at the University of Maryland. “We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback on the new space,” he says, “even though we’re running out of it.”
A+I (Architecture Plus Information)
16 West 22nd Street, New York, NY 10010
Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
Architect of record:
Structural: Severud Associates
MEP: AMA Consulting Engineers
Exterior Wall Consultant: Vidaris, Inc.
Landscape: New York Green Roofs
Lighting: Lighting Workshop
Acoustics/ AV: Cerami & Associates
AV: Presentation Products
Expediting: Brookbridge Consulting Services, Inc.
Security: TM Technology Partners, Inc.
JRM Construction Management LLC.
Gardiner and Theobald
Magda Biernat, Geordie Wood
Metal panels: Empire Metal and Glass
Metal/glass curtain wall: Kawneer
Wood: Patella Woodworking
Other: Glass Bulkhead Custom fabricated by Empire Metal and Glass
Wood doors: Patella
Sliding doors: Patella
Special doors: Modernfold
Acoustical ceilings: Armstrong
Suspension grid: Armstrong
Cabinetwork and custom woodwork: Bauerschmidt & Sons, Inc
Paints and stains: Benjamin Moore; Idea Paint
Wall coverings: Maharam
Solid surfacing: Corian
Floor and wall tile: Nemo tile
Resilient flooring: Marmoleum
Special interior finishes unique to this project: Existing concrete flooring
Office furniture: Herman Miller ; Custom Desk by JM Lifestyles
Reception furniture: Boffi, Montauk Sofa, Living Divani, Tacchini B&B Italia, Restoration Hardware
Chairs: Arper, Mater, Andrea World, Sandler Seating
Tables: Arper, Sovet Italia, MDF Italia
Upholstery: HBF Textiles, Knoll Textiles, Maharam
Other furniture: Arper, Hightower, Vipp, Vitra, Ligne Roset, Bernhardt, Kartell, Knoll
Dimming system or other lighting controls: Ketra
Decorative Lighting: Allied maker
Custom sinks with custom faucets: Bauerschmidt & Sons, Inc
Custom Faucets: Tristate Plumbing