Cyclists are an obsessive sort—how else would you describe the spandex-clad culture of the peloton? Perkins+Will channeled that intensity into the new headquarters of SRAM, the Chicago-based bike component manufacturer.
Since it was founded in 1987, SRAM has earned a reputation for ultra-high-performance parts and components (we're talking the gear that's on Tour de France riders' bikes). It's grown to be a successful company in no small part thanks to its employees, who all live and breathe cycling. The company does everything under one roof, from design to engineering to sales and marketing.
After it outgrew its 15-year-old space, SRAM tasked Perkins+Will with designing a bigger office that could handle the diverse activities that go on at the company day to day—while retaining the brand's culture. While some teams might need to video conference with factories located in other countries, the industrial designers might need to prototype a part in the machine shop. And someone in HR might want to tune up their bike during their lunch break.
The 72,000-square-foot office the architects designed inside a 1920s-era cold storage building is kitted out with every imaginable necessity for a company of cyclists—and a few luxuries.
First off, most of SRAM's 150 Chicago employees bike to work. So Perkins+Will overhauled a space in the building's basement for 200 bike racks, a full locker room with showers, and even a bike-washing station. The employees also led a contest to design 200 more custom racks situated near their workstations upstairs, each of which display the bike like a trophy. There are smaller bike-centric details aplenty, like the handlebar tape that surrounds some cabinets or door handles, and drawer pulls made from components that SRAM manufactures.
But the crown jewel? An 1/8-mile track around the office's perimeter that's painted with the same graphics that Chicago uses on its bike lanes. In addition to serving as a circulation path around the office for anyone on foot, it's also used to test new gear coming out of SRAM's labs.
Most of the workstations themselves are in an open-plan space, and each employee has a sit-stand desk. "There was a lot of time spent really trying to figure out how to accommodate the unique requirements from the finance to graphic design departments," says Joe Connell, a design principal at Perkins+Will. "We wanted to have a lot of flexibility so it’s a 'loose fit,' which can be tailored to each individual basis. It’s not a precious corporate space. We wanted it to look neat and clean and tidy but could anticipate heavy-duty work."
While SRAM certainly built the design around the needs of its current employees, it also thinks of the space as an investment in its future workforce.
"We compete these days with companies like Google—which actually occupies the five floors above us—and the amenities and perks they offer," says Dave Zimberoff, VP of Marketing at SRAM. "For what we do, the lifestyle of bikes is important and celebrating bikes is important. Our personnel is motivated by fitness so we fly that flag very loud and proud. There's no mistaking that we're in the bike business when you walk in the door."
All Photos: ©Michelle Litvin Studio