San Francisco, California Designed by HOK
AstraZeneca’s new workplace is located in the Cove at Oyster Point, a new life sciences development at the epicentre of the region’s life sciences and technology community.
Flexible lab space and an open office environment incorporate AstraZeneca’s iWork activity-based work processes. Employees from four subsidiaries of the region’s life sciences and technology community work side-by-side to support each organization’s mission.
The design puts science on display through transparent, integrated lab, office, and public spaces. Glass-fronted labs allow employees and visitors to view research activities from the public spaces. High-quality finishes, rich materials, and art enhance lab environments. A cohesive interior palette features colours and graphics extracted from imagery that represents AstraZeneca’s global ecosystem and the Bay Area’s biome.
Amenities throughout the building promote social interaction, and a central open stairway encourages connectivity across departments. A lower-level multipurpose conference and lounge area accommodates shared activities across businesses. Adjustable desks with ergonomic chairs, treadmill-equipped team rooms, an on-campus gym, and on-site pantries with organic food options support the health and wellness of AstraZeneca’s people.
The space reinforces AstraZeneca’s commitment to becoming energy-, carbon- and water-neutral by 2025. Sustainable design strategies for the project, which earned LEED-CI Platinum certification, include low-emitting materials, optimized lighting and lighting controls, energy-efficient appliances, water-efficient fixtures, and a high-efficiency HVAC system.
FH: Tell us a little bit more about the brief for this special project?
DH: Well, I would call AstraZeneca the perfect client. They have very high expectations of their workplace because they really prioritize taking great care of their people, providing a comfortable workplace that – with opportunities to connect people to other people, state of the art equipment nature at every opportunity, and private spaces – is essential for user wellbeing and productivity. This is something they really understand, so they didn’t come to us with very specific requests. It was a broad conversation from the beginning.
The aspiration was to improve productivity, creativity, improve knowledge sharing, and collaboration within the workspace, to foster maximum health, wellbeing, and safety performance with good workspace design.
This project came at an interesting time in the company’s growth. We needed the workspace design to help unite employees from four different companies with different company cultures and previous work environments. The design had to facilitate culture sharing and integration.
We also wanted increase transparency between lab work and the rest of the company.
We needed to deliver a flexible space that responded to multiple needs and sustainable assets, and we wanted to make it regionally appropriate.
FH: What are some of the design elements that came out of this goal setting?
DH: First, we made the labs more visibly transparent so that all employees were connected to the work going on within them. We also built meeting areas within the labs, which is quite unusual. Previously, lab employees had to change clothes, wash up, and reserve meeting rooms outside the lab area for their group meetings and discussions. Now they can meet in the lab environment, saving them time and ensuring that idea sharing happens close to the work.
We used employee feedback to design colour schemes and commission artworks throughout the building. Rather than conventional images referencing technology and science, employees liked our idea of using local, medicinal plant life for setting the colour tone and patterns within the interior. So, there’s storytelling and learning within the space as well.
We also hired a plant consultant to recommended specific plants for specific areas of the workspace based on daytime sunlight etc. We wanted to be sure that plants within the office thrived as well, and this was of course another example of biophilic design within the workspace.
On different floors, we also designed rooms with different styles and different food and beverage offerings to encourage employees to visit different floors and meet one another. This was important for integrating employees from the four companies that were now coming together. The position of the stairwells also encouraged them to walk between floors instead of taking elevators. Wellness and comfort are so closely linked of course, and we have received very positive feedback from employees on these spaces and the design. That, of course, is the core metric of success for us and the client.