Uber focuses on employee needs at new headquarters in San Francisco

In early March, Super Pumping: Uber Battle, a dramatic portrayal of disgraced startup president Travis Kalanick, premiered on Showtime. The series’ flashy set pieces are based on news reports about the toxic work environment that Kalanick and his close associates oversaw on Uber’s Market Street campus in San Francisco. Under pressure from investors, he resigned as CEO in 2017, and members of the executive team quickly set out to overhaul the company’s image.

Pay started with their own offices. In search of a fresh start, Uber acquired four semi-contiguous plots of land in the Mission Bay area and the local office of architecture and interiors tapped Huntsman to develop a unified master plan. “When we got involved, they were going through a real transition,” said Alison Wolf, associate director at Huntsman. AN. “They were looking to emphasize and connect with their employees.”

Reception seating is from Carl Hansen and Skagerak, among others. (Eric Lynell)

Aligned from north to south along Third Street, the buildings are grouped in pairs and separated by a cross street. Buildings 1 and 2, designed by SHoP Architects, are glass blocks connected by cross pedestrian bridges and feature accordion windows that, when opened, give the shell a prismatic lustre.

By contrast, Buildings 3 and 4, which share a plaza with Chase Center, home of the Golden State Warriors, are more traditional developer fare. What catches the eye in this pair is the wealth of densely woven programs, from the retail and care rooms to the yoga studio and outdoor terraces, that characterize their interiors. The floor boards are divided into “neighborhoods” inhabited by the different Uber teams; They are recognized by color schemes and special graphic patterns. However, as well as these open offices are realized, they cannot match the extreme sensitivity of auxiliary spaces.

People practice yoga in a well-ventilated studio space
Wellness Suite (Eric Linell)
Woman walking down a ladder into an office space filled with art
Art custom commissioned by Leah Rosenberg. (Eric Lynell)

In the department, the 11-story structures seem to dedicate as much real estate (584,000 square feet total) to business as they do to non-functional activities. According to Wolf, there are approximately 30 rest rooms throughout the buildings, each one equipped with a different decorative scheme. Many coffee shops and snack stations complement a full-service cafeteria and pop-up food program. Wood-paneled terraces provide a natural point for gathering and socializing, while lounges double as spaces for self-work. Staff are provided with laptops, allowing them to stretch their legs and float from the base of the house into an upstairs “chill space” or seventh-floor library, with pit stops at juice or coffee shops on the way.

Smart material choices, artwork, and eclectic touches (a dichroic glass ceiling and TLS programmable “sky” light) define each of these programs, often spanning multiple stories. “We created as many perforations as possible, which create openings for stairs and terraces, as well as art pieces and reception desks,” Wolf said. “It also helps communicate what’s happening in the SHoP buildings.”

A view of a large interconnected artwork spanning two floors from an office space
A monolithic artwork by Nike Schroeder spans two floors. (Eric Lynell)

Uber’s Mission Bay campus opened last year, but the buildings are still at partial capacity. However, Wolf attests to a change in the company’s culture. Apparently many employees in Terminals 3 and 4 spend a lot of time on the parapets planted with bulkheads to block the consistent city winds. She said the outdoor space “shows some thinking on the part of Uber”. “The balcony and the social areas are not only coronavirus-ready, but they also make the office a more interesting place spatially. Everything is staff oriented.”

Sitting bleacher on the company campus
Bleach areas with a programmable TLS Vega TLS Lumicloud roof. (Eric Lengel)

Uber headquarters, Mission Bay Buildings 3 and 4
the interiorThe Huntsman Architectural Group
Site: San Francisco

Architect: Pfau Long (Perkins & Will Company)
general contractor: DPR Construction
MEP Engineer: Alpha Tech
acoustics: Salter
natural views: SWA . group
Structural Engineer: Thornton Tomasetti
woodwork: montbleu
Sustainability: iStock, SSR
art: Keehn on art
Graphics: there
Furniture dealer: two furniture

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