Microsoft New England Research & Development Center (NERD)
Akamai Technologies, one of the world’s leading companies in the Content Delivery Network (CDN) field, reinvented themselves with their new global headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Formerly occupying space in six different buildings within Kendall Square, the fastest growing tech hub in the country, Akamai consolidated from six different locations to be under one roof. Spread across that many places can be difficult for collaboration, innovation, and ideation; all behaviors critical to staying at the forefront of their industry. Moving towards a more consolidated and efficient real estate approach helped them minimize disruption and missed opportunities, while maximizing the employee and client experience.
Akamai’s vision for their new headquarters is a singular and integrated campus, connecting all departments and groups seamlessly and thoughtfully. The new 19-story, 480,000 SF design strategically organizes all collaborative spaces around a sinuous, continuous path throughout the entire building, encouraging both planned encounters and serendipitous interactions. The path, a mile long experience affectionately referred to as the “AkaMile”, begins in the lobby at street level, greeting customers and employees with its bold interactive displays and warm, welcoming textures and tones. The AkaMile arranges many of Akamai’s customer service programs around the first few client reception floors, taking the visitor along a journey of exploration and education around what services Akamai can offer its customers, and how it has become a leader in the tech industry.
The path transitions beyond the customer service focus to the employee experience where it purposefully weaves its way through the remainder of office floors in a series of interconnecting stairs and volumes. This uninterrupted route allows for both horizontal connections to other employees on the floor, but also vertical connections to those on floors above and below, extending the visual reach of a floor and eliminating the barrier that can be caused by having to get in an elevator. In doing so, the design creates a continuous loop housing spaces that support knowledge sharing, information gathering, brainstorming, and invention across a far larger group of people than just a single floor plate, all of which contribute to Akamai’s growing status as a world leader in technology.
Program destinations distributed across the floors attract people throughout the building, encouraging constant movement and a change in environs, fostering improved interaction and innovation. Specialized cafés with more enticing refreshments pull employees away from their workstations while powered furniture centered around technology provides a place for a brainstorming session over a cup of coffee. Quiet, isolated libraries offer a respite for those looking to escape the open office for more intense concentration on a focused task. Informal and alternative working spaces are sprinkled throughout the path, allowing employees the opportunity to take in a change of scenery depending on their task and their to-do list for the day. Mega Bytes – a combination food network and activity node – draws people to the top floors of the building, handing over the best views of Cambridge and Boston to all employees.
The AkaMile is a cornucopia of options for any working style, regardless of the need. At the same time, the AkaMile intentionally responds to the needs of the software engineering intensive users with a requirement of individual focus time. By pulling the collaborative environments into a specifically and centrally designed zone, individual open desks are allowed to remain quiet and distraction free, something that is critical to day to day work. Employees can clearly understand where collaboration and socialization occur, and where heads down time is meant to happen. Furthermore, the colored lines with specialized pattern and palette point to various Akamai locations throughout the world, conceptually connecting satellite offices to their global hub in Kendall Square. Beyond the pattern, this path is inherently Akamai. Its exterior is coated in bright pops of color which enliven the open office environment and stimulate the employees with an ever-changing hue. The path starts at the base of the building in Akamai’s signature orange, evolving through the color scale to conclude at the top of the building, ending in Akamai blue.
A project of this scale, ambition and complexity also entails a complex delivery process. Moving into a yet unbuilt building required close coordination between the design team, the project management team (Northstar), the landlord (Boston Properties), and the contractor (Turner, whose contract was held by the landlord). To take advantage of possible efficiencies in the construction timeline, early packages were released to coordinate floor openings, steel modifications, MEP systems, and core modifications. To meet the goals of Akamai, the base building lobby was shifted to the tenant scope and designed as part of the AkaMile. And throughout the documentation and construction process, detailed coordination ensured the final build out is fully consistent with the design aspirations of the project, as well as all targets for sustainability (LEED and WELL).
For more information contact Victor Vizgaitis.