Every innovative company says they want an office that fosters innovation and productivity. But when your company’s stated mission is to “improve the health and happiness of the world,” the stakes are just a bit higher.
That was the challenge Kelly A. Robinson faced when she was approached by the team at Headspace to design their new Los Angeles headquarters. Besides the routine demands of a growing startup—space must provide room to grow, attract top talent, and be affordable—the meditation company needed a space that was “whimsical, fun, colorful, but also mindful.”
Basically, it needed to exude calmness while fostering creative energy. A tough balance.
But if ever there were a designer cut out for the job, it was Robinson. As luck (or some other unknown force) would have it, Robinson had just finished a 10-day meditation retreat in Argentina when Rich Pierson contacted her about potentially designing Headspace’s new office space in Santa Monica. “I thought that was very synchronistic and interesting,” says Robinson, who’s based in San Francisco but has designed offices all over the world. “He tweeted me, I tweeted him back, we jumped on the phone right after my meditation retreat, and it was a done deal. I flew there three weeks later and just started on it.”
The centerpiece of the Headspace office is “The Lookout,” a large community space that Robinson describes as “partially an amphitheater, partially a cafe, partially a presentation space, and partially a party space.”
It’s this area that perhaps embodies the duality of the space best—a space both for celebrations and quiet reflection. “From the beginning, I knew how special that space could be. I think (Headspace co-founder Andy Puddicombe) was really uncertain. He was like, ‘How can you create a space where people feel like they can meditate and party in the same spot?’”
That feat was pulled off with a variety of seating suited to the needs of each user in the space. There are tables with benches for eating and meeting, amphitheater style risers for presentations, cozy couches that invite relaxation, and even a pit workers can stretch out in for work or meditation. Tying the space together is a blue wall with the company’s mission spelled out in white lettering: “Improve the health and happiness of the world.”
Elsewhere in the office, colorful booths line a hallway that otherwise would’ve been an underutilized space. “I tried to create my own by purchasing different individual pieces and making little baby meeting rooms,” says Robinson. “And then I was speaking at a conference in London, and I saw this product by Spacestor. I sat in it and thought ‘This is exactly what we need!’” Robinson says these pieces offer quiet spaces to meet and work—always important in an open floor office.
Scattered around the space are futuristic meditation pods, created by Headspace in partnership with Oyler Wu Collaborative. The pods provide a private space for employees to take a few minutes away from their desks and practice some mindfulness.
Robinson tries to integrate herself into the culture of a business before designing their space—sitting with the team and working in their office for herself to see where the pain points lie. By the time she finished Headspace’s HQ, she found herself picking up some of their helpful mindfulness habits.
“Headspace taught me the ritual of coming together to sit for 10 minutes in the morning and in the afternoon, which they did every single day, I think they called it ‘Take 10,’” says Robinson. “That becomes infinitely more powerful when a space is created that is intentionally designed for that ritual. When you have the power of the consistent and deliberate ritual with the right container for it, you get more engagement.”