After a long search we found a promising spot in Portland’s downtown West End neighborhood — an area that has gone through a tremendous transformation over the last few years. The building in question was initially not very appealing. A former methadone clinic, the space had been gutted and was showing signs of years of neglect, including a previous building fire.

Prior to renovation; Spencer Court, Portland, OR
Image credit: Skylab Architecture

Prior to renovation; Spencer Court, Portland, OR

The owners had grand plans for the building though. They’d hired Skylab Architecture to turn the building into the gem of the neighborhood. The owners also control the rest of the city block and are playing an instrumental role in transforming the West End into a desirable destination. Looking through the project plans, it didn’t require much imagination to see the potential of this project. The final exterior indeed turned out to be stunning:

Spencer Court, Portland, OR
Image credit: Skylab Architecture

Spencer Court, Portland, OR
Image credit: Skylab Architecture

Spencer Court, Portland, OR
Image credit: Skylab Architecture

While Skylab was working on the building shell, we hired YBA Architects to design our office interior to occupy the second floor. We wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to create an incredibly functional and inspirational space. Some of our challenges for the new office were:

  • Design the correct combination of conference and breakout rooms: In addition to larger conference rooms we saw the need for smaller, two-to-four-person groups and project teams to have options for meeting spaces.
  • Collaboration spaces: Our teams needed space for collaboration with lots or writing surfaces and pin-up friendly walls.
  • Open workspace with quiet areas: We wanted to continue our tradition of an open workspace, but we also needed quiet areas for focus — sequestered spaces  anyone could commandeer when they needed to work with a high degree of uninterrupted concentration. These quiet spaces needed comfortable seating that also allowed people the freedom to use things like Wacom tablets and dual work screens.
  • Client impression: Our old office required clients to walk through the team’s (sometimes messy) work area to reach the conference rooms. We wanted to avoid that with the new office layout if possible.
  • Seating arrangements: How could we set up the seating arrangement to encourage cross-team collaboration? UX is in the creative team, but communicates verbally on a much more frequent basis with the development team.
  • Amenities for an active lifestyle: Supporting our team’s active lifestyle is a big priority. Therefore we wanted to add amenities such as bike storage, locker spaces, a shower room, and a meditation room.

In the end we feel like we were able to solve all of these challenges exceptionally well, and create an office design that our team members love working within and clients love visiting.

One thing we loved in our old office space was the amount of natural daylight streaming into the building. We brought the same feeling into our new office through numerous skylights and the use of glass walls and doors.

Emerge Interactive office space, Portland, OR
Image credit: YBA Architects

The main workspace was designed as a large open area. We selected an Interface carpet-tile system that helps us reduce noise pollution in the space, and we control the lighting through sensors, which dim the lights when it’s bright out to reduce energy usage. The wood elements in the space were returned to their original beauty via glass-bead blasting.

Open creative office at Emerge Interactive, Portland, OR
Image credit: YBA Architects

Four breakout rooms provide options for internal meetings. They can also be turned into project war rooms. Each room can be accessed from both sides via sliding-panel glass doors, and each has a whiteboard wall in addition to a ReCore acoustic panel wall.

Breakout conference rooms at Emerge Interactive, Portland, OR
Image credit: YBA Architects

The best corner of the office looks out onto the neighborhood through stunning floor-to-ceiling windows. We’ve made this into a communal lounge-space so everyone can enjoy it.

Emerge Interactive office space, Portland, OR
Image credit: YBA Architects

Several standing-desks throughout the office allow team members to alternate between sitting and standing. Some standing-desks are set up with external monitors so it’s easy to plug-and-play.

Standing desks at Emerge Interactive, Portland, OR

We also provide a quiet workroom with two desks for focused separation, and a wellness room for meditation and relaxation. A bike garage by the entry has room for fourteen bikes.

Thank you YBA Architects and Skylab Architecture for the wonderful work. We couldn’t be happier with our office and the building, and look forward to many prosperous years here.

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