Gensler is a global architecture and design firm who strive to make the places people live, work and play in more inspiring and impactful. Widely recognized as the world’s leading collaborative design firm, they offer the design industry’s deepest bench of expertise, matched with experience gained by working with their clients across the global economy. Gensler was responsible for creating Etsy’s new headquarters in Brooklyn, New York, with an aim to blur the line between workplace and habitat. The LuxPad spoke to John Mulling, Gensler’s Design Director for this project, to find out how it went…
Project name: Etsy Headquarters
Floor Area: 225,000 SF
Project time taken: 3 years
Completion of Project: May 2016
About the Project
Etsy’s new Brooklyn Headquarters is designed to showcase their culture of treating “Code as Craft”. The theme reinforces the celebration of making from end-to-end—spanning across both analog and digital space. This appreciation for many hands joining together to weave a bigger community story is built on intimate single authorships that characterize their business and design. The journey through the space creates a similar narrative built on local maker, artist, and artisan contributions. This story culminates in maker spaces that allow employees and visitors to participate in a celebration of craft.
Blurring the lines between workplace and habitat, the headquarters is on track to become the largest Living Building Challenge Petal-Certified project in the world. The design aspires to be a fully independent, regenerative ecosystem that sets a bar for a more dynamic and robust interpretation of sustainability. The project performance criteria looks beyond basic LEED criteria, challenging conventional notions of what is possible in a commercial office space. Through its materials story—sustainable, authentic, local, reclaimed—and its green embrace—nature permeating the space—the headquarters advances the potential for sustainability at all levels.
Gensler’s design for Etsy’s new 225,000-square-foot headquarters epitomizes true “design values alignment.” The space is uniquely Etsy—demonstrating authenticity, personality, and a spirit born from its Brooklyn roots.
A cable-wire staircase made out of wood from the original rooftop water tower takes visitors up to the second-floor reception; artwork from outside artists and makers is weaved throughout the cable wire. Moving up the stairs to the third, fourth and fifth floors, you’ll pass through workspace that is dotted with living greenscape, making the space feel more like a treehouse than office. This is what Etsy fondly refers to as the “Green Embrace,” the idea of bringing the outside in, of nature permeating and reclaiming the building.
The sixth floor is dedicated entirely to amenities and features everything from wet and dry labs to a wood shop to sound rooms, recording studios and public gathering space. As a constant steward to the community, Etsy opens this floor at night so its neighbors can reap the benefits of the space through speaking events, maker demonstrations, and workshops where the community can learn directly from Etsy’s makers.
As a constant steward to the community, Etsy opens this floor at night so its neighbors can reap the benefits of the space through speaking events, maker demonstrations, and workshops where the community can learn directly from Etsy’s makers.
Navigating your way up through the seventh and eighth floors, you’ll find a green-embraced workspace. While there are standard workstations, there are also standing-height spaces that become alternative work settings. Meeting spaces are abundant and mixed throughout the workplace. Varying from individual phone rooms to two-person meeting rooms to open lounges, every floor offers access to some place for either private conversation or a casual, impromptu meeting.
The ninth floor features half terrace and half amenity space. It’s where Etsy employees go to find solace and refocus. The wellness suite features a mother’s room, yoga studio, quiet room, garden library, and showers. Additionally, there are gender-neutral bathrooms, further contributing to Etsy’s mission to be a game-changing, trend-setting workplace.
The entire building serves as the narrative to Etsy’s journey, and as a result, the four principle design concepts can be seen throughout the space. The makerspace provides opportunities for practicing, teaching and learning the art making on a daily basis. The workspace brings employees closer to nature both inside with greenscaping and outside with landscaped terraces and garden libraries. An ardent commitment to sustainability, authenticity and the shared community is omnipresent, from the reused wood of the water tower that used to top the building to the solar panels on the roof terrace. Never has a workplace been able to express itself so authentically as the new Etsy headquarters.
What was the creation / planning process?
Through a series of visioning sessions with Etsy focused on values, design, sustainability, community, and operations, we developed guiding principles and design principles for the project. These principles established the key metrics of success for the project and reinforced Etsy’s foundational engineering culture of treating “Code as Craft” and the celebration of making.
How did the project go?
The project has been a huge success. The space is uniquely Etsy, demonstrating authenticity, personality, and a spirit born from its Brooklyn roots.
What was your favorite part of the project and why?
Many of the maker installations and artwork were installed at the end of construction, just before Etsy moved in. Seeing how these installations activated and enhanced the built environment was very satisfying.
Were there any issues or problems you encountered during the project?
Etsy used many Brooklyn and Etsy makers for furniture and lighting. Most makers had never had to provide information on material content of their products, a requirement to help satisfy the Living Building Challenge Petal Certified requirements for the project. We held workshops to help them understand the process for creating Declare Labels.