The most rewarding thing about being designers is having the chance to meet and engage with inspiring people who want to build a better world. At SRG, our team leverages the power of thinking and working as a team, bringing a wide range of talents, expertise, backgrounds, perspectives, and tools together under one roof to imagine and explore how design and the built environment can elevate the mission of our clients and inspire progress in our communities. Each project has this potential, and it is this opportunity to make a positive impact on our world that brought us all into our profession (and together at SRG) in the first place. Simply put, our passion is about making a difference with the work we do together. As an office, we are constantly seeking new ways to evolve our culture and design process to make sure we are leveraging this collective passion and our potential as a creative, collaborative team.
Over a year ago, we began a search for a new home in Portland, recognizing that part of advancing our culture as a design firm, passionate about accelerating the flow of ideas from every member of our team, is making sure our environment doesn’t get in the way of that potential. Although our old space connected us to our city in a central location adjacent to Portland’s living room, Pioneer Courthouse Square, we weren’t connected to each other as much as we wanted to be. A fresh design opportunity then presented itself in the former home of The Oregonian, and we instantly saw its potential as our new home. The vacant, barrier-free, light-filled space represented a blank canvas to explore ideas on how a new office design could continue to transform and evolve our practice and culture, while demonstrating our commitment to design excellence, sustainability and health and wellness at the same time.
Fast-forward to today, and it is clear the decision to move to this space, and the studio itself, is bringing us closer together around our common goals and our collective passions as designers. It’s been a transformative step forward for SRG as we look boldly toward the future and our role on projects and in our community.
A Connected Environment for Collaboration and Discovery
The big idea behind the design of our new workplace was simple: make personal work space more dense, flexible, and efficient, and provide a wide range of formal and informal places for teams to connect, discover, and share ideas.
Our former office was highly compartmentalized, with quite a few physical barriers between teams. It also lacked meaningful places to gather in small or large groups. With this limiting layout, staff on one side of the office could spend an entire day working without engaging the other side, so spontaneous meetings and interactions were rare outside of project teams. As a design firm constantly trying to find innovation and inspiration in between the seams of our projects and project teams, allowing physical barriers to compete with that aspiration for our culture was no longer acceptable.
Our new studio remedies these issues with an open, inclusive floorplan that connects people to each other, our work, and our design resources in ways that make collaboration feel effortless and fluid every day. There’s more conversation and awareness about what everyone is working on, creating an active environment that effortlessly translates into better work, stronger relationships, and fantastic energy. A few key features of our new space that are bringing us together around design and big ideas:
Collaboration Kitchen: This central hearth is where people congregate during the day to share coffee, lunch, or a snack. It also serves as an open team space that works well for presentations, meetings, and events.
Materials Library: Interior and exterior materials are no longer stored away in an area that basically becomes a dumping ground. In this lively team space, we have a place to meet and explore physical samples for projects, assemble mockups, or attend presentations about materials or emerging building technologies.
Open Project Rooms (“Project Pods”): These open, informal spaces allow project teams to collaborate and display their progress on a regular basis free of the formalities of standard conference rooms. The result is dialogue and curiosity between teams, allowing us to leverage our collective team on projects at all stages of design more consistently. They are also great places to walk by to just see what we’re up to. Being surrounded by ideas and design provides inspiration for us all every day.
Maker Space: Once fit out, we will finally have a full wood shop and a separate adjacent space for digital fabrication. Making physical models is a critical part of exploration and design that we are looking to expand as we evolve.
Diversity of Work Environments
Our active, open layout encourages numerous opportunities for spontaneous conversations and connections. We are all now much more aware of current projects, pursuits and interests around the office, which makes us feel closer as a single team. We also feel more connected to the city around us, being on the first floor and surrounded by 24-foot-tall windows overlooking the activity of Columbia Street and the Unitus Plaza across the way. However, with this openness and transparency came risks that, without a diverse range of workspaces, would have made some of our team uncomfortable. We recognized that a good balance between private workplaces for teams and individuals and the more open work environment is critical. We realized the need to respect personal preferences, recognizing that every individual will seek different environments to get things done. Our overall design therefore incorporated a mix of personal desk locations and densities, as well as quiet, private areas for small teams and individuals to get away to focus.
A Place to Connect with our Community
A huge part of our mission at SRG is to connect with our community to find ways to positively impact the world around us. An advantage to having a ground-floor space and design that emphasizes connecting and sharing ideas is that we can now invite our community to be a part of it throughout the year. This week we are hosting an open house with Design Week Portland. We’re also working with the Architecture Foundation of Oregon to showcase the work of young students from the Architects in Schools program, and we are excited to find other ways to invite the community into our space in the future. This could include hosting speakers, seminars, board meetings, and other events related to design and progress within our City and beyond.
In short, I think the SRG design team has done a fantastic job transforming this historic space into an inspiring place for us to connect, explore, and discover big ideas — while having a little fun along the way. Our culture has taken a huge leap forward as we aim higher and farther as an office, and this space now represents that forward trajectory.
If you’re reading this and haven’t had the chance to experience our new space, follow our journey at #SRGNext — but even better, come through the front door. We’d love to see you and give you a tour!