Zendesk San Francisco HQ Blurs Lines between Home, Hospitality, and Workplace

And you can see it for yourself at our SF TALK on August 17!

Zendesk San Francisco HQ

Zendesk’s San Francisco HQ and the host venue for our upcoming TALK. Photo by Bruce Damonte, courtesy of Blitz.

We’re thrilled to be headed to the Zendesk San Francisco HQ for our next Work Design TALK, on August 17. The panelists all had a hand in the project and we’ll be discussing choice in the workplace with them, generally, as well as how they’ve designed for it at Zendesk, where employees are encouraged to work from a variety of spaces throughout the office.

Scroll for stunning photos and more details about the project from the design team at Blitz. And click here to get your tickets for the TALK on August 17!

Zendesk San Francisco HQ

Photo by Bruce Damonte, courtesy of Blitz.

What is the address of the project?

1019 Market Street, San Francisco, CA

Who was the building architect?

Studio TMT

Who was the interior architect/designer?

Blitz Architecture + Interior Design

Zendesk San Francisco HQ

Photo by Bruce Damonte, courtesy of Blitz.

When was the project completed?

June 2014

What is the total square footage?

75,000 SF

What is the square footage per person?

110 SF/person (491 staff members)

Zendesk San Francisco HQ

Photo by Bruce Damonte, courtesy of Blitz.

How many total employees are there and what’s the daily population?

The space was designed to accommodate 500 full time staff.

What is the location’s proximity to public transportation and other amenities?

The office is located within a half a block of Civic Center BART and Muni station. Zendesk encourages staff to utilize public transit and biking as main transportation methods. The project has a walk score rating of 98, transit score of 100, and bike score of 96.

The Zendesk headquarters is located in the urban center of San Francisco’s Mid-Market Neighborhood. By bringing in increased foot traffic and assisting in activating ground floor retail spaces, Zendesk is hoping to work with neighbors and reduce crime in the neighborhood. The bright LED-lit office acts a beacon; it invites passersby to stop and appreciate the historic beauty of the area, as well as its potential for future growth.

Zendesk San Francisco HQ

Photo by Bruce Damonte, courtesy of Blitz.

As part of Zendesk’s move to the Mid-Market area, they signed a CBA (community benefits agreement) that established community outreach and uplift requirements as part of their move to the area. Zendesk has embraced this project and, since their opening, have hosted in-office tutoring for college and high school students, supported staff-wide volunteer opportunities at local non profits, developed in office fundraising campaigns, and use Mid-Market caterers and restaurants for at least 40 percent of its events.

Which furniture brands/dealers were used? Please touch upon any notable products, how they were used, and if they solved a specific problem.

Furniture Dealer: One Workplace

Furniture Manufacturers: Northwood Design Partners, Steelcase, Cypress, HAY, BluDot, Hightower, Eames

Zendesk San Francisco HQ

Photo by Bruce Damonte, courtesy of Blitz.

Is there a mobile work or work-from-home policy or are most of the employees there all day every day?

Though each staff member has an assigned desk the company encourages employees to work from anywhere within the office space.

What percentage of the space is unassigned?

All of the workstations are assigned; however there is ample open collaborative space throughout the floors that are unassigned including work cafes, lounges, and booths.

Zendesk San Francisco HQ

Photo by Bruce Damonte, courtesy of Blitz.

How is the company’s brand reflected in the space?

The qualities of being airy, humble, charming, and uncomplicated are what make up the core of Zendesk’s brand attributes, and were used as guiding principles for design. Zendesk wanted the space to feel light and open, but also varied and textured. By including secluded nooks and darkened spaces, the design team created a contrasting atmosphere that emphasizes the airiness of the open office. Organic materials were selected to complement the historic building’s existing finishes and emphasize Zendesk’s humble qualities. Charm is evident throughout, from the ground floor devoted entirely to reception, to pops of green cheekily inserted into the calm and neutral palette. Finally, the design team took a reductionist approach, looking for opportunities to reduce rather than add. The result is an uncomplicated yet thoughtful space that combines minimalism with warmth.

Zendesk San Francisco HQ

Photo by Bruce Damonte, courtesy of Blitz.

Another key design influence was the Danish concept of “hygge”, which roughly translates to “coziness”. The design team designed spaces with lowered ceilings and muted lighting, finished with soft, acoustic wall coverings and natural materials to create an inviting contrast to the bright and large open office area. Custom-designed booths create cozy refuges for meetings and focused work, while wood canopies extend from the kitchens to provide additional nooks and shelters. The new office blurs the line between home, hospitality, and workplace, merging all the comforts and qualities of each.

Zendesk San Francisco HQ

Photo by Bruce Damonte, courtesy of Blitz.

What is the most unique feature about the new space?

Visitors are guided into the space through the wrapping form of the entry canopy, which shares the same geometry with the reception desk and illuminated swag shelving. With both retail and hospitality influences, the reception area demonstrates Zendesk’s dedication to excellent customer service. The reception desk also functions as a servery for company events. Both the ground floor with reception and the basement floor below are designed to be open and public facing, where Zendesk team members can grab a booth for a quick meeting, or the company can host events. As such, the two floors are connected physically by stadium seating and stairs, and visually through a vertical moss wall that spans between the two. With a presentation platform and varied seating, the basement is well-equipped for all-hands meetings. This area also doubles as a large event space for community events.

Zendesk San Francisco HQ

Photo by Bruce Damonte, courtesy of Blitz.

If the company moved out of a previous space, what was the hardest aspect of change for people?

Zendesk was one of the first tech companies to move to San Francisco’s Mid-Market neighborhood, and the first to sign a community benefits agreement. While some tech firms in San Francisco draw criticism for being too insular, for not integrating with the surrounding community, or for spending lavishly on ostentatious perks, Zendesk has been commended for its lack of pretension and its thoughtful efforts to open its doors as a communal hub for local businesses and residents.

Zendesk has been commended for its lack of pretension and its thoughtful efforts to open its doors as a communal hub for local businesses and residents.

These considerate efforts are reflected in the design of the company’s new headquarters. After experiencing rapid growth, Zendesk expanded to a second building on Market Street. For this new building, Zendesk asked the design team to create not only a great working environment, but also a blank slate for employees, free of ornamentation and excess. As chief creative officer Toke Nygaard recently commented to Contract, “[The design team] worked hard to understand our needs and priorities — that we wanted something different from most startups, that our culture is less formal, that we strive for beauty and simplicity in our products and processes.”

For staff, the biggest transition was having departments spread out across six floors. There was a big concern that teams would be siloed. To address this challenge the design team created a variety of amenity spaces such as coffee bars, yoga room, snack stations, and open collaborative working space on each floor to encourage staff to work and meet in different locations throughout the building.

Zendesk San Francisco HQ

Photo by Bruce Damonte, courtesy of Blitz.

Please share any illuminating, surprising, or hoped-for results you might have gleaned from post-occupancy surveys.

The team did not perform post occupancy evaluation on the space; however, Blitz served as Zendesk’s global designer for their London, Melbourne, Dublin, and Madison office locations. Through each project the design team aimed to represent the values and ideals of the Zendesk brand while creating highly personalize and curated offices that reflected the local culture and staff. Each project was an opportunity to evolve and reinterpret the key project drivers in a new way.

Please talk about any other notable aspects of the project that make it unique.

The design team also took care to make sure the new interiors harmonized with the building’s existing structure. Located in the historic Eastern Outfitting Co. building, the space retains its original rafters, California pine support beams, sealed concrete floors, and uncovered brick walls. The design team disguised core and shell utility rooms on each floor behind clean white walls, which act as veils. All elements that extrude from these white planes are finished in soft wood, creating a textured, layered environment.

If you’re going to be in San Francisco on August 17, please join us for our next Work Design TALK, hosted at Zendesk, “Exploring Choice in the Workplace”. Tickets are available here!

2 Comments

  • This is really awesome! Looks like the dream workplace for any employee. With a place like this, it would be easier to stay motivated and accomplish more without feeling the burden of work.

    Thanks for sharing! There’s so much inspiration in this post!

  • Anna says:

    It looks like a cold and bare workplace that can use indoor plants. It would soften the industrial look of the place.

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