It was at her local library in Mumbai, India, as she sat on the floor between stacks, where Prutha Raithatha would find Frank Gehry.
Thumbing through pages of architecture books, Prutha saw the bizarre buildings that Gehry created. He used glass and metal like origami paper, twisting the buildings into unusual shapes. Only Gehry could create a brain diseases medical center, for example, that looked like an earthquake had left the structure in a glinting pile on a Nevada sidewalk.
Prutha remembers a twinge of excitement when she saw these buildings. A career path yawned open before her.
“It was so amazingly weird. I wanted to do that,” Prutha said. “Experiment with form and shape.”
Prutha grew up, moved to New York, and became an architect at Corgan. Last year, Prutha and her team were responsible for designing the new office for Bustle Media, which owns a few digital news outlets for women, including Bustle and Romper. When the company came to Corgan with the assignment, they offered a blank slate in terms of branding and design.
The goal: create an office that fosters creativity. So Prutha and her team set to work.
All photos courtesy of Corgan, used with permission.
They settled on the theme, “speed of light,” to represent the pace of work at a digital news site, and that theme is threaded throughout the space. It’s present in the colorful shadows cast by the vinyl film panels scattered throughout the office. It’s there in the abstract art print of neon signs in London, displayed on the wall in the pantry. And it’s perhaps most present in the lobby, one of Prutha’s favorite parts of the office.
When the elevator doors open onto the entry floor, there’s a lobby surrounded by infinity mirrors and light beams that subtly change colors. It’s Instagram-friendly, which is probably a draw for the celebrities who come to Bustle for photoshoots or interviews. It definitely looks like an immersive art installation, and that is the point.
“You come in from the street and take a moment to stop in this room and experience some art,” Prutha said. “Then you go create something.”
The lobby has another element that’s a bit different from a traditional office: there’s no front desk. Since all visitors sign in with security on the first floor, the idea was to have them be received by more of a host than a receptionist in the mirrored room.
It’s evident here that offices are moving towards more “experiential design,” as Prutha calls it.
“The old office structure is completely destroyed. Cubicles are gone, everyone is in open office space, private offices are becoming smaller” in projects that she’s worked on, she said.
That’s part of why Bustle now features an open-office area with a number of different options for people to work, aside from their desks. These spaces are not conference rooms, exactly. Instead, the tables have been replaced with couches. The kitchen with that Paul Smith abstract art is another place for meetings to take place. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that this kind of office place was designed with millennials in mind. Bustle has many employees in their 20s.
That means that, yes, cubicles are out and couches are in. But it’s deeper than couches being “cooler” than cubes. Prutha said that millenials value comfort, that they’re not interested in money over everything else, that they want work-life balance and the freedom not to be tied to their desks. “I don’t think it’s a reversible trend,” she said.
That flexibility of movement is intended to contribute to creativity and productivity. And so is the design of the space, from the flow from room to room, to the colors, to the lack of a receptionist. Prutha said a lot of the design features black and white walls and trims so that employees can decorate their area to fit their projects or to just make it feel homier.
“Psychology plays a huge role in design,” Prutha said. “As designers, if you have any power at all to make people feel better or to make society feel different, you have to take that seriously.”
Not everyone has the opportunity to create a custom office space from the ground up. So Prutha had one more tip for anyone making location decisions for their team: “You can’t change natural light,” she said. “A space that brings in light, that is half the battle.”