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Traveling FromSan Francisco, California, USA
Aaron has a single motivation in life and at work. To bring curious humans into a physical space that opens their minds and challenges their assumptions to create fiction-free environments for communication, innovation, and whatever the 21st century has in store for “work.”
Aaron started Spaces Of explicitly to answer one question: what is the office after Covid? He and his partners developed a method of corporate cultural understanding that looks at space through an analytical lens of volume, density, flow, and performance but also uncovers and honors its emotional aspects: Why people go to work, not just where they go to work.
He developed this process of understanding as the executive creative director for the in-house architectural design group at Airbnb from 2013-2020. “Environments” was responsible for millions of square feet of space built in a period of hypergrowth and incredible optionality for the most high-value workforce in the world. The workspace had to function as a place to get things done but also communicate deep brand values and illicit a sensation of belonging that acted as a tool for retention and recruitment. This idea of brand embodiment is central to understanding “destination” in the 21st century.
In its two years of operation, Spaces Of has worked with several high-profile clients to understand and tailor a spatial strategy for a culture-first vision of work, including:
- Regional workplace Strategy for SAP in the Bay Area
- Headquarters refresh for Pinterest
- Westcaps New York office (completed 12/2022)
Aaron has a BA in Cinema and a Master’s degree in architecture. He has been a songwriter, a comic book artist, a filmmaker, a sound engineer, a professor, and an architectural designer. He brings the summation of these experiences to his current role as Creative Director of Spaces Of.
Turning the Future into the Present, an SAP Case Study
With a broad workforce spread across a vast region, SAP had trouble getting people into their Palo Alto Campus before the global pandemic. Still, the sudden evacuation of the rather large footprint allowed SAP to fully assess the current employee sentiment and office footprint. Spaces Of was hired to do both.
This talk takes a step-by-step journey through a visually stimulating cultural and spatial analysis with a resultant solution that is at once radical and practical. Although made for a specific client, the deck provides universal axioms for any organization managing multidisciplinary teams utilizing many modes of knowledge work. This project is currently under construction.
Work in the time of Corona
The pandemic actualized the unrealized potential of our mobile technology. It normalized remote work and broadened fluency in previously fringe digital tools. This latent leap into the 21st century has put the much-maligned “open office” model into stark relief: After a decade of open office critique, Covid forced a solution; our desks came home.
So, why even go to work? Aaron’s keynote talk does more than answer this question. It lays out a methodical approach to creating a “Destination” that compels employees into a shared space, overcoming domestic comfort with the self-evident power of communal space.
A New Financial Environment
Private Equity has the unique potential to transform a novel business plan into a marketable asset. However, the tools of this transformation have been quite limited; “Investment” typically means “money.”
Mid-2021, we were approached by a fund with a broader sense of the word. This Client has a creative agency in operation within their walls. They provide financial expertise, re-branding, design concepts, and identity work for portfolio companies. They had the unique request to expand further this reimagined notion of investment with an office large enough to host these nascent companies, to give them an on-demand HQ that provided a high-functioning workspace keeping the portfolio open and the communication flowing.
This talk shares the design process and photography of the built project, completed in January 2023.
Airbnb Offices Seriously Fun and Suddenly Relevant
I spent seven years leading the design of Airbnb’s offices. Two million square feet of space across five continents. The company doubled yearly for half a decade, which meant that no matter how fast we built, we were always running out of space. We managed the practical issue of maintaining function with varying degrees of density but always kept sight of the conceptual dictum that our spaces communicate the brand and its promise in ways that could be felt and experienced, not just read or seen. This combination of elements created intensely stimulating spaces that invited exploration, leveraged human energy, and stimulated the imagination.
We had a lot of visitors. They marveled at the freedom of movement, the conviviality, and the novel structures that contained all this social action. They said, “my company could never have an office like this.” That was true then but isn’t now.
The pandemic threw the typical office environment into stark relief. And the digital fluency / remote productivity of employees threatened its entire existence. Hybrid is the answer, but no one wants to work in a new way in the old space; they need something compelling to return to: they need a Destinations, that’s what we created at Airbnb, and this talk explores the elements of these spaces that can be recreated and reinterpreted to create the post-covid office all employees deserve.