The warehouse space, with its mismatched couches and waffles on the counter, helps foster collaboration. Or at least that's what the Swedes tell Paul Malmstrom.
Passers-by could easily mistake the office for a furniture store. Wondering if the front tables are made of Northern Adobe wood.
Once inside, it’s clear that the space is not a furniture store (although the tables are, in fact, Northern Adobe wood). No furniture store would have a fully stocked kitchen with a giant frying pan in the centre. Nor would there be a woman making waffles at the front counter.
Advertising agencies are often envisioned as corner offices and cubicles. Not a warehouse space where, on every floor, people sit side by side at long tables. Where they lie on mismatched couches, feet propped on the armrests, laptops in hand. Where employees line the kitchen counters eating toast and talking about things such as "briefs", "visuals" and "copy". It takes a minute to realise these conversations are meetings. Actual meetings where business gets done.
Large bowls of salad appear in the kitchen around noon. People seem to just know the salads are there and file down the stairs instantly.
Suddenly, the lights dim. A giant screen shoots from the wall. Everyone gathers on the bleachers for a special viewing of work.
They see a commercial where people harass Michael Bolton. They learn about a whisky company and see the packaging that was designed.
There seem to be a lot of Swedish people in the office. They say something about the space being designed to make people feel comfortable. How this comfort builds a culture of collaboration. Then one of them says something in Swedish that makes them laugh hysterically.
Passers-by might question, after viewing this office, that their notion of advertising had been wrong. If the point of an agency was not simply to sell things, but to make the world a more interesting place. To build a space so bizarre, strangers walk in off the street and ask: "Where am I?"
Paul Malmstrom is a founder of Mother New York
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