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A lime green Smeg and hot pink stripes on the polished concrete A lime green Smeg and hot pink stripes on the polished concrete A sculptural stairwell: O+A believes functional elements offer unique opportunities for design A sculptural stairwell: O+A believes functional elements offer unique opportunities for design The classroom area includes raw materials such as wood, steel and metal The classroom area includes raw materials such as wood, steel and metal Bicycle racks are incorporated as a design feature Bicycle racks are incorporated as a design feature The tree-house like "nook" for employees to rest in The tree-house like "nook" for employees to rest in Hot pink cushions and a glass phone booth beneath the staircase Hot pink cushions and a glass phone booth beneath the staircase A quiet spot upholstered in Paul Smith plaid A quiet spot upholstered in Paul Smith plaid
03 Jul 2014

Capital One Labs' HQ, by Studio O+A

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  • Designer: Studio O+A
  • Client: Capital One Labs
  • Location: San Francisco
  • Floor Space: 325sq m

Capitol One Labs' new office, designed by Studio O+A, marks a departure from the typical corporate space with pops of neon colour, raw finishes and an elevated 'sleeping nook'.

Bank interiors rarely offer surprises. Carbon-copy layouts, fixed furnishings and a uniform of drab grey with a tick of corporate colour are the custom, reflecting the no-nonsense attitude we expect from financial institutions.

However, US bank Capital One's app team, which creates cutting-edge banking products and experiences for online customers, wanted to distance itself from this somewhat fusty image, its slogan shouts: "Think banking is boring? We're changing that." A crucial step in its reinvention was the redesign of its San Francisco office. Essentially a design studio, staff members wanted a workspace that looked and felt like one.

Studio O+A, which has a client list that includes start-up luminaries such as Yelp, Facebook and Uber, was drafted in to realise this vision and inject a bit of fun into the design.

Polished concrete floors, white ash walls and large expanses of glass and open space provide a neutral backdrop for eye-popping bursts of colour. Eschewing the bank's signature navy and red, the office includes support beams in bright blue, seating cushions in hot pink and a lime green refrigerator. The most striking element is perhaps the stinging-yellow staircase that acts as a sculptural centerpiece in the 325sq m space. This falls in line with O+A's core belief that functional elements offer unique opportunities for design.

For maximum flexibility, the multi-purpose space contains a range of seating options, furniture that can be moved around easily and custom-made wooden tables mounted on casters so they can be reconfigured. To ensure sound is contained within the different areas, O+A incorporated sound blocks made from recycled jeans as an alternative to the usual acoustic panels.

Breakout areas include niches lined in Paul Smith plaid, a glass phone booth and a backlit "nook" that is reached by a ladder. The latter responds to the client's request that the new office included places for its staff to rest.

"The nook... recreates the cozy isolation of a tree house while providing a practical retreat for Capital One's hardworking employees — some of whom participate in one- and two-day brainstorming hack-a-thons during which no one gets much sleep," says O+A.

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