Client: Founded in 1926, Publicis Groupe is the third-largest communications group in the world, comprising advertising, public relations, and marketing companies.
Site: The new offices of Publicis Groupe San Francisco occupy the top three floors of 350 Bush Street (Heller Manus Architects), a new 19-story office tower in San Francisco’s Financial District that incorporates the landmarked 1923 San Francisco Mining Exchange Building as its grand lobby and principal entry. Located near 20 MTA bus stops and three major BART stations, the building features bike storage, day lockers, and shower facilities to accommodate commuters.
Size: 52,879 square feet; three floors
Program: The design firm provided complete architectural and interior design services, comprehensive furniture design, planning and specification services, environmental graphics and branding services, as well as landscape for the office’s exterior deck space.
Design: For the San Francisco offices of Publicis Groupe, Blitz employed its new workplace design approach to create a space that promotes a culture of connection, inclusivity, and agility. The offices were designed with the aim to co-locate and consolidate the firm’s 11 national and international brands in San Francisco, which employ 550 people previously spread across 120,000 square feet in multiple locations. The result is a dynamic and energetic workspace that reflects the Groupe’s mantra, the Power of One, which served as the key driver for the decision to move all brand agencies under one roof.
Expanding upon the principles of activity-based workplace design, Blitz provided agile spaces for teams and individuals, while acknowledging the needs of a new mobile workforce. Diverse workstations empower team members to be more effective and engaged than at a traditional assigned desk. Flexible spaces, both open and enclosed, seamlessly integrate access to data, AV, and video conferencing to support a variety of activities throughout the day and encourage cross-pollination among brands.
To express the distinct identities of each Publicis Groupe brand, Blitz met with members of a steering committee, which included representatives of each of the brands, to define programs and project goals centered upon three fundamental strategies: continuity, connection, and community. Visioning workshops were held to determine relationships and adjacencies between brands, as well as which resources, such as print labs and interview rooms, should be shared.
Each floor was conceived to create visual connections to the cityscape, as well as establish intimate links among work stations. Main reception on the 19th floor (top floor of the building) is at the end of a short journey from the elevators through a corridor with a raw concrete wall on one side, and a dichroic glass wall with colorful abstractions of the company’s logo on the other. The open space introduces several recurring concepts: retail-like storefronts, brand signage, rustic wood flooring, exposed building systems painted white for light reflection, and expressive geometric lighting. “Boulevards” lined with plants and custom curved seating extend from the lobbies to work areas. Corresponding undulating soffits are painted a dark gray and lead to colorful branded “portals” that frame work zones dedicated to the different brands under the Publicis umbrella. While the three floors are unified by a palette of neutral, industrial, and authentic materials—such as wood, glass, and concrete—each brand is distinguished by environmental graphics, signage, colors, and materials that Blitz tailored to reflect the distinct identities.
Workspaces are organized as a series of neighborhoods and feature a variety of configurations. Options include desks for individual work in enclosed offices, phone rooms and privacy pods, and collaborative settings, such as conference rooms and break-out spaces. In addition to these options, each brand is afforded dedicated project rooms designed to support client deliverables. Outfitted for optimal idea generation, some of these spaces contain lounge-like seating arrangements while others refer to traditional conference room or a studio set ups with pin-up surfaces, marker boards (sometimes as a desktop), and video screens. Open collaboration zones and corner window lounges feature informal, comfortable soft seating to engender easy communication in a casual atmosphere. Concentrated workstation areas include communal tables at a variety of heights to create differing arrangements across the space, establishing visual interest and activity. Blitz designed several custom pieces, including triangular tables and standing desks. Personal lockers and secure, brand-designated storage provide employees with protected space for their belongings and confidential materials.
Blitz cleverly and creatively controlled the balance between privacy and transparency using innovative materials. Parachute cord is installed in various brand colors vertically along glass panes, while decals of vertical stripes imitating the cord are applied to other glass surfaces; in some areas, both cord and decals create greater depth. The 19th-floor boardroom is enclosed in curved glass walls lined with a specialty film that allows light and views to penetrate, but blocks outsiders from seeing proprietary information on screens.
Throughout the office, immersive, playful experiences encourage discoveries and drive movement across and between the three floors. The 19th-floor window-lined pantry sparkles with gold wall tiles and decorative pendant fixtures set against a black-and-white boldly patterned floor. Ever-important cold-brew coffee, along with wine and beer, is available on tap—a specific client request. A speakeasy-style bar on the 18th floor has a cozier feeling; the floor also features a lounge area with special hanging “nest” chairs, as well as an IT bar with timeline display of vintage Mac computers. The 17th-floor pantry has both counter and banquette seating, while a colorful collaboration zone offers flexible seating arrangements with small square poufs that may be stored in open shelves when not in use. Gender-neutral lavatories, mothers’ rooms, and colorful rainbow graphics adorning the glass walls of common corridors uphold Publicis Groupe’s commitment to inclusivity.
Firm: By applying a human-centered design approach across various scales and typologies, Blitz brings the personality, culture, and values of each client to life in physical form. As an award-winning full-service architecture and design firm, Blitz specializes in creating fresh and innovative environments that disrupt the status quo. Founded in 2009 by Melissa Hanley, AIA, IIDA, LEED AP, and Seth Hanley, AIA, LEED AP, the firm offers a variety of design solutions, including architecture, interior design, graphics, and branding for a range of typologies that comprise workplace, hospitality, retail, and education. To heighten the human experience, Blitz engages in an investigative process that includes immersive observation to understand clients’ needs while using technology to optimize the design delivery process. The firm operates from offices in San Francisco and Los Angeles and works with clients throughout the US, Europe, Australia, and Asia.
Affiliates: General Contractor: DPR Construction
MEP Engineer: WB Engineers + Consultants
AV Consultant: Diversified
Furniture Dealer: Vangard Concept Offices (VCO)
Photography: Eric Laignel