Studio Hive designs MarketingLab's new offices: Designer Forum - Oct 2015

By Rebecca Kundysek

When designing inside a building on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP), preservation and creation must form a harmonious relationship. MarketingLab entrusted designers from Studio Hive to design its new offices while conserving the historical attributes of the 100-year-old Loose Wiles Building in downtown Minneapolis.

The floor proved a crucial element in this particular project. Strict guidelines had to be followed and adhered to—or not adhered to, in the case of new flooring material. To abide by the rules, the design team devised a plan to work around the requirements, combining aged character with contemporary aesthetics.

Studio Hive entered the scene when MarketingLab was considering relocating to the popular, rapidly developing North Loop area. Comprised of various buildings erected mainly in the early 1900s, this neighborhood thrives on energy from its youthful demographic and was destined to be home to MarketingLab. 

The innovative marketing firm is best known for adapting to new shopper trends, so ingenuity and creativity are highly important. These concepts led to one of the project’s main goals: blending science and art to create space that ignites innovative thoughts, positive feelings and productive actions, which supports the firm’s philosophy. 

Keeping an open floor plan to provide for high energy and collaboration was another goal. Collaboration is not the only—and not always the best—means of fostering inspired work. Solitude, relaxation and quiet are just as critical. The design team quickly realized they would need to use minimal and strategic partition placement and utilize flooring materials to designate and separate diverse functional spaces. 

Upon entering the space, employees are greeted by a wooden pathway that traverses around the office in a continuous loop. This serves as the main circulation corridor that leads to all areas and highlights the building’s historic character. 

Much of the office has an open plan in which benching work areas abut collaboration, meeting and cafe spaces. Studio Hive designed intricate screens that form enclaves for each department team, providing visual separation, pin-up space and areas for creative expression. Angled and curved partitions, along with floor material transitions, guide users through the space and frame glimpses into adjacent areas, providing a sense of separation and depth in the small office footprint. 

Meeting and phone rooms, while enclosed for privacy and acoustics, still have a level of transparency, allowing outsiders to experience the inventive energy and creative excitement that tends to occur within these rooms. 

Forming the core of the office is a circular, centralized gathering space where people come to meet, eat, work and play. Big, bold pattern on the carpet stimulates this zone, while wall surface is devoted to drawing boards that promote inspired and often comical works of art.

Buildings listed on the NRHP must be protected from destruction or impairment of any kind. In this case, the ceiling, exterior walls and structural members were required to remain untouched and could not be covered by new finishes. Studio Hive saw that, aside from the few new walls to be erected, the floor provided a critical surface on which to design. The existing wood flooring could not be demolished, and any new overlaid material could not damage the wood if ever removed. 

Loose lay carpet tiles by Mohawk and Bentley joined with tile stickers was the solution. Requiring no additional adhesive, this material left the existing floor intact and air quality undisturbed. Carpet tile also provided great opportunity for color, texture, pattern, unique layout and sound absorption. Studio Hive implemented these basic design principles by conserving parts of the wood floor, and by utilizing multiple carpet tile products to generate delineation between zones, balance acoustic levels and create pathways to navigate users through the space. 

Using the floor as a canvas, Studio Hive united new and old elements to ignite a bold, fresh environment, which fit the clients’ vintage, colorful, and eclectic tastes. It was they and their collection of eccentric artifacts and abstract artwork that inspired the design team’s design concept and palette. Like the building’s character, these items tell a story and warrant display. Studio Hive developed a neutral palette of finishes that focused more on materiality and texture with the use of particle board, felt and tactile plastic laminate paired with the existing wood floor, concrete, metal and brick. This approach created backdrops that would not compete with the art pieces. 

Bright colors taken from a favored art piece appear in small doses throughout the space. A mostly grey carpet was chosen for the open office areas where team members require concentration. Plans for expansion also dictated that open office furniture needed to be flexible and mobile. Creating a distinct flooring pattern was ill advised, as it might be abandoned in the future. 

Enclosed meeting rooms also received grey-toned carpet tiles. Multiple shades were used, along with a pink accent, to develop ombre and chevron patterns, which kept the floor mostly neutral but provided a little punch. In the central cafe area, black and blue carpet tiles with a large scale pattern were cut into an oversized circle, following the curve of the main display wall, to ground the space’s seating area. 

Aside from aesthetic appeal, flooring also needs to be functional. Carpet provides much needed sound absorption in a space otherwise consisting of hard surfaces that reflect and diffract sound. While wood flooring does soak up some ambient sound, it creates much of its own when paired with stilettos, wooden soles and the occasional tap shoe. Specifying a cushion-back carpet helps dampen sound and also increases durability and lifespan of the face fiber. 

The design team recognized carpet as the ideal material in the majority of office space where individuals would need to have the least noise. They then designated that only the main walkway and kitchen keep the existing wood. Hard surface flooring is best used in high traffic areas for its durability and cleanability. Both designers and end users dread seeing paths worn into trampled carpet. Main walkways call for hard surfaces.

As a creative firm, Studio Hive recognized the need for inspirational outlets within this project, places where thoughts and ideas become visible. The design team intentionally left “blank space” for this use throughout the office. Galvanized metal boards were installed for use as dry erase boards and magnetic pin-up areas for both work and personal expression. In other areas, felt designs provide pinning space for work sessions and project display. And in the kitchen, blackboard paint above the cabinets can be used for doodling or messaging. 

A permanent mural by MarketingLab’s creative team depicting famous Minneapolis landmarks was installed in the reception area and can be viewed even before entering the space. Temporary installations pop up around other parts of the office on a regular basis. Whether work related or fun-spirited, these drawings and collages add to the atmosphere and aesthetic of the space. 

A partial-height curved wall encapsulates the cafe space with translucent shelving to display antique toys and science artifacts. Its design lets natural light flood the space and provides some screening without completely separating this important central area. Procured abstract and pop art is displayed throughout the space and speaks to the company’s vibrant culture. 

Ultimately, the goal was to design a space that supports MarketingLab’s culture and brand, a place where people are excited to come to work and energized and inspired to develop successful marketing strategies. Flooring played a key role, contributing to the beautiful juxtapositions of old with new, neutral with color, practical with playful and form with function, while helping Studio Hive achieve its goal to construct an inspirational work place that fosters creativity and ingenuity.

Copyright 2015 Floor Focus

Related Topics:Mohawk Industries