Launch Slideshow

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395 Page Mill Road

395 Page Mill Road

  • The lobby at 395 Page Mill Road serves as a gateway to the AOL offices upstairs and the various businesses housed in the ground-floor incubator offices beyond.

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    The lobby at 395 Page Mill Road serves as a gateway to the AOL offices upstairs and the various businesses housed in the ground-floor incubator offices beyond.

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    Elfi Chester

    The lobby at 395 Page Mill Road serves as a gateway to the AOL offices upstairs and the various businesses housed in the ground-floor incubator offices beyond.

  • Bicycles mounted to a column in the lobby serve as sculpture when they aren't in use by employees of both AOL and the ground-floor tenants.

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp16F5%2Etmp_tcm20-1275462.jpg

    Bicycles mounted to a column in the lobby serve as sculpture when they aren't in use by employees of both AOL and the ground-floor tenants.

    600

    Elfi Chester

    Bicycles mounted to a column in the lobby serve as sculpture when they aren't in use by employees of both AOL and the ground-floor tenants.

  • Details such as the wooden ceiling that curves down to form a seating cove (modeled after the skate board half-pipes that were all the rage when AOL was founded in the 1980s) are designed to serve as breakout spaces, giving incubatees a chance to meet and collaborate with those working on other projects.

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp16F6%2Etmp_tcm20-1275470.jpg

    Details such as the wooden ceiling that curves down to form a seating cove (modeled after the skate board half-pipes that were all the rage when AOL was founded in the 1980s) are designed to serve as breakout spaces, giving incubatees a chance to meet and collaborate with those working on other projects.

    600

    Elfi Chester

    Details such as the wooden ceiling that curves down to form a seating cove (modeled after the skate board half-pipes that were all the rage when AOL was founded in the 1980s) are designed to serve as breakout spaces, giving incubatees a chance to meet and collaborate with those working on other projects.

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    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp16F7%2Etmp_tcm20-1275478.jpg

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  • The ground-floor office suites are oriented around common resources, such as this multi-purpose presentation room. Here, colorful acoustic panels in different thicknesses line one wall to absorb sound while still adding texture to the space.

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp16F8%2Etmp_tcm20-1275486.jpg

    The ground-floor office suites are oriented around common resources, such as this multi-purpose presentation room. Here, colorful acoustic panels in different thicknesses line one wall to absorb sound while still adding texture to the space.

    600

    Elfi Chester

    The ground-floor office suites are oriented around common resources, such as this multipurpose presentation room. Here, colorful acoustic panels in different thicknesses line one wall to absorb sound while still adding texture to the space.

  • Office areas are connected by hallways with informal collaboration areas to allow the tenant companies to expand their office areas into the public realm when necessary.

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp16F9%2Etmp_tcm20-1275493.jpg

    Office areas are connected by hallways with informal collaboration areas to allow the tenant companies to expand their office areas into the public realm when necessary.

    600

    Elfi Chester

    Office areas are connected by hallways with informal collaboration areas to allow the tenant companies to expand their office areas into the public realm when necessary.

  • An open-office suite, with conference rooms and enclosed offices lining one wall, and an expansive white board surface on the other.

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    An open-office suite, with conference rooms and enclosed offices lining one wall, and an expansive white board surface on the other.

    600

    Elfi Chester

    An open-office suite, with conference rooms and enclosed offices lining one wall, and an expansive white board surface on the other.

  • Even the coffee bar is an incubator business: Though it serves coffee brewed from Blue Bottle Coffee beans, the cafe is owned and operated by Stanford University students.

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    Even the coffee bar is an incubator business: Though it serves coffee brewed from Blue Bottle Coffee beans, the cafe is owned and operated by Stanford University students.

    600

    Elfi Chester

    Even the coffee bar is an incubator business: Though it serves coffee brewed from Blue Bottle Coffee beans, the café is owned and operated by Stanford University students.

  • Coffee bar seating area.

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    Coffee bar seating area.

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    Elfi Chester

    Coffee bar seating area.

  • Studio O refenced this patio area to accomodate outdoor space for the building users to be able to spill outdoors. It is used for everything from  meetings to cook-outs.

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    Studio O refenced this patio area to accomodate outdoor space for the building users to be able to spill outdoors. It is used for everything from meetings to cook-outs.

    600

    Elfi Chester

    Studio O+A re-fenced this patio area to accommodate outdoor space for the building users to be able to spill outdoors. It is used for everything from meetings to cook-outs.

  • The patio area also features a bocce court.

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    The patio area also features a bocce court.

    600

    Elfi Chester

    The patio area also features a bocce court.

AOL’s new west coast headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif., isn’t a sprawling campus, but rather a renovation of one of many blink-and-you’ll-miss-them tract office buildings that line the byways of Silicon Valley. But walk into the lobby of the reimagined interior designed by San Francisco–based Studio O+A, and you’ll see the well-appointed trappings of a high-tech company: A bank of flat-panel screens mounted to one wall that displays logos and content from the company’s Web venues. A cluster of candy-colored bicycles fetchingly suspended from a column act as sculpture—that is, when they haven’t been checked out by employees to ride around the building or downtown for lunch. What you will not find in the ground-floor offices beyond the reception-desk-cum-ceiling-plane (cleverly curved to recall a skateboard half pipe, which were all the rage when AOL started in the 1980s) are AOL employees. That’s because the tech giant devoted the first floor of its headquarters to incubator office space for fledgling companies, one of which, it hopes, could be the next billion-dollar IPO.

Apple famously started in a garage, and Facebook began in a dorm room, but these days, tech companies are taking a more organized approach to fostering new talent. Venture capitalists (VCs) have made incubators standard fare in Silicon Valley, and spaces for them are designed to encourage collaboration among microcompanies.

VCs “want to capitalize on the prospect of creating cross-fertilization and getting access to other ideas,” says Studio O+A principal Verda Alexander, and such spaces are often small venues within larger VC offices. At AOL’s 395 Page Mill Road, the model is flipped: The 80,000-square-foot ground floor is divided into suites ranging from 500 to 25,000 square feet, along with incubator space, co-working environments, and offices for tenants and VCs. “Incubators by nature need to refresh quickly,” says Studio O+A principal Primo Orpilla, “and they [the companies] will be growing. We design the space to a certain point where they can scale in a suite and then they’re probably going to be looking for their own office space.”

Here, some companies occupy a single office, others have a more-traditional open-office suite of bench seats surrounded by whiteboard walls. The workspaces themselves are designed for flexibility and ease of turnover—“You give them enough to do what they need to do,” Orpilla says—and take their cues from AOL’s own office space, which Studio O+A also designed, upstairs. The designers took great care to connect the suites with an infrastructure of common spaces that encourage collaboration. Hallways are wide, and outfitted with chairs and breakout spaces wherever possible.

Other communal areas are more formalized, but even the requisite coffee bar—designed with a food-truck-inspired pull-up door over the counter—is staffed by entrepreneurs from nearby Stanford University. A shared lecture hall, lined in colorful acoustic panels, can be set up for lunchtime lectures, business updates, or more-social endeavors. And it absolutely works as a multipurpose room: “Sometimes they play soccer in there,” Orpilla says.

Overall, the transformation of an existing building and the creative use of no-nonsense materials may signal a shift for similar high-tech offices. “Pulling back the layers of the space was very much saying: This is the new Valley,” Orpilla says. “This is made for work, and socializing, and the 24/7 economy. This is not about over-building.”


Project Credits

Project 395 Page Mill Road, Palo Alto, Calif.
Client AOL
Interior Designer Studio O+A, San Francisco—Primo Orpilla, Verda Alexander (principals); Denise Cherry (director of design); Perry Stephney (director of projects); David Hunter (senior designer); Justin Ackerman, Caren Currie-McDonald, Sarunya Wongjodsri (designer); Jeorge Jordan (graphic designer); Albert Claxton (project designer)
Mechanical Engineer All Temperature Service
Structural Engineer KPFF Consulting Engineers
Electrical Engineer Howell Electric
Construction Manager Novo Construction—Eric Weinhagen
General Contractor Novo Construction
Landscape Architect Eddie Chau Design
Size 80,000 square feet
Cost Withheld

Materials and Sources

Ceilings Conwed Designscape, an Owens Corning Co. (acoustic ceiling, clouds) conweddesignscape.com; Ecophon Group (acoustic ceiling, perimeter) ecophon.com
Carpet
Flor flor.com
Cork
Expanko Cork expanko.com
Paint
Sherwin Williams (accents) sherwin-williams.com; Glidden Paints (exposed ceiling) glidden.com
Finishes
Abet Laminati (plastic laminate) abetlaminati.com; Formica (plastic laminate) formica.com; Caesarstone US (Quartz surface) caesarstoneus.com
Tile
Daltile daltile.com; Heath Ceramics heathceramics.com; Apavisa www.apavisa.com
Flooring
Allstate Rubber (rubber base) allstaterubber.com; Bolon (rubber flooring) www.bolon.com