The headquarters of Web hosting provider pair Networks Inc. has the earmarks of cutting-edge industrial-look design, with plenty of exposed ductwork and electrical conduit, an angular metal sculpture clock and plasma video screens in the reception area.
Not unlike the offices of many companies in high-technology industries, pair Networks' 12,000-square-foot complex flouts the design of conventional office spaces. And, as with a lot of tech offices, it seems as if the owners must have spent a bundle to get the sleek utilitarian look that has become nearly de rigueur in New Economy companies.
"I wanted it to be a reference to our corporate identity," says Nancy Kumpfmiller, a principal in the company that she and her husband, Kevin Martin, a former research systems programmer at Carnegie Mellon University, founded in 1995 in a 600-square-foot office.
But the company's new offices, while sleek and modern, weren't the biggest expense for pair Networks' headquarters. The real money was packed into the on-site data center -- and for good reason.
The owners say their company hosts 100,000 Web sites but few visitors at its facility. With security and technological redundancies being the highest concerns for clients, the offices aren't used extensively for courting new business or schmoozing customers. For pair Networks, the design of its River Park Commons offices on the South Side in the former Gimbels warehouse revolves around the data center.
A close look at the design details reveals that pair Networks achieved its striking look without breaking the bank. In fact, the idea from the beginning was to achieve a comfortable, inspiring workspace for its 25 employees without spending a fortune. The company's corporate colors, blue and gold, cover large areas of the walls and architectural features.
Kumpfmiller nixed a proposal for linoleum floors and opted instead for retaining the existing concrete floors in most of the space. The rectangular panels that detail many of the walls are inexpensive medium-density fiberboard. Fluorescent light fixtures hang low over the workspaces, and flat, white walls provide soft reflected light.
Common areas are lighted using institutional fixtures bolted to metal tracks suspended from the ceiling on round steel-bar stock. And employees are encouraged to personalize their workspaces to suit their tastes and make themselves comfortable.
Perhaps most indicative of the blurring of the line between work and play that today's information age workers are so comfortable with is the electronic game machine that stands in the corner of the conference room. Even Kumpfmiller's original vision for pair Network's offices reflects a clearing of the barriers between work and personal time that younger workers in the tech industries are demanding.
Says Kumpfmiller: "I wanted it to be almost to the point of looking like a club you would see in the Strip District." How to reach: pair Networks, www.pair.com
Ray Marano (firstname.lastname@example.org) is associate editor of SBN magazine.