WORKSPACE (n) A room, set of rooms, or building where the business of a commercial or industrial organization is conducted



“Social innovation” firm Context Partners designed new offices on NE Alberta Street with two personality types in mind: introverts and extroverts. “We collaborate a lot, and we’re often on the phone,” says Jensie Miksich, who led the project. “You’re always so aware of what everyone is doing.” The result blends hierarchy-blurring openness—no private offices—and “rest and recovery” spaces for the retiring types.



Over four years, software analytics company New Relic’s Portland office rocketed from three people to more than 80 employees and a $10 million payroll. Challenge: preserving the grassroots energy its engineers loved. Solution: transforming an old-style US Bancorp Tower corporate space into a candy-colored funland, with meeting-room names from comic books (“Spider Skull Island”) and open collaborative spaces instead of corner offices. “Space is an investment that pays off in terms of who we can hire and how we all feel at work,” says senior VP Jim Gochee. “We’re out of the adolescent phase, but don’t want to lose our culture.”

Explore New Relic’s candy-colored funland of an office


Christopher Espinoza, founder of barbershop mini-chain The Modern Man, on design as a competitive edge

You stuffed your first shop on Alberta with animal heads and retro knickknacks. Were you riding Portland’s old-time trend?

There wasn’t much of a plan. When we added the bar upstairs, I tried to create an environment where my dad would want to go—he’s an old Mexican cowboy.

How did design become so important to your brand, then? People started to say, “Oh, we love the concept.” So the second shop, on Hawthorne, became a library, the refined side of the Modern Man. Our third shop, on N Mississippi, is a long narrow room, which suggested the history of that street as a streetcar line. So: train station. 

Does this stuff matter to workers?
Who wants to leave their job? And yet we’ve been able to attract both veteran Portland barbers and really interesting new talent. Barbers often work in environments where the owner thinks a Playboy and big TV is all you need. But barbering is an art form, and like any art form, ego is a part of it. Our guys get to work in spaces they know were loved. 

Three Portland spaces that redefine the conference room

Instrument: The teepee 

A fire at old digs forced this marketing and design firm into an “all hands on deck” overnight renovation of an empty industrial NE warehouse. Short on enclosed meeting spaces (or walls), they struck on a novel solution: a teepee (above).  More than just a clever piece of construction, it came to represent a new, more communal workplace culture.

Industry: The Container 

When digital experience and product design company Industry needs to tackle an extra-crunchy problem, team members retreat to the shipping container: a made-to-order, matte-black steel box, just big enough for a six-person table. At the head of the table sits an elk skull, to represent the problem-solving idea they hope to hit on: “We call it king of the hill,” says founding partner Oved Valadez. “This is where we brainstorm, sketch, collaborate.” 

Wieden+Kennedy: The Nest (a.k.a. “Out in the Sticks”) 

The architectural statement—a bare platform cantilevering over the ad agency’s exposed sixth-floor beams—looked cool, but often sat empty. Enter installation artist and sculptor Patrick Dougherty, who wove countless locally sourced sticks and branches into a semisecluded, downright cozy place.


Selgas cano Architects in Madrid

A transparent tube running through a forest

Internet provider Bahnhof in Sweden

A scary-cool underground lair (in a former bomb shelter)

Microsoft’s headquarters in Vienna

It has a slide. A slide!



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