Red Bull's New York HQ Is Office Normcoreby
For a business that markets its energy drink by sponsoring death-taunting extreme sports, Red Bull keeps a surprisingly low profile. Its headquarters is in a low-slung, unmarked building in the small Austrian town of Fuschl am See, Austria. The company doesn’t grant interviews, including for this post. Fortunately, we’ve been given a look at the company’s recently opened New York office, which, unsurprisingly, doesn’t brandish a single logo.
That is by design. The space, located in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood, doesn’t celebrate the company’s brand, nor is its layout inspired by a popular theory of workplace productivity. Instead, the company wanted a low-key, versatile office that could be transformed as needs and trends change. “If the new [office design] standard is to create a physical experience that reinforces the brand attributes the company has successfully established in the digital environment, then Red Bull is the antithesis of this strategy,” says the designer, Jeffrey Inaba. “It’s not exactly the architectural equivalent of normcore, but it’s a similar response.” (Normcore, in Thomas Frank’s words, is “the trend among the privileged toward anti-fashion clothes of the kind available at Wal-Mart.”)
Nothing screams Red Bull. There are no billboards of previous marketing campaigns, playgrounds for grownups, or vending machines stocked with silver cans of caffeinated beverages. Instead, 16,800-square-foot duplex office has a gallery-esque feel, with concrete floors, whitewashed walls, and vibrantly upholstered pieces of midcentury modern furniture.
The office currently holds 60 people but Inaba expects that it can accommodate twice that number without being renovated. Rather than making the space flexible using pricey partitions, he carved it into three types of fixed spaces: large for open-plan workstations, medium-sized for meetings, and small for meetings up to four people or solitary heads-down sessions. Although each room type has unique lighting and acoustic features, none is custom-tailored, so they can be easily adapted to new uses in the future.
The space, as Inaba sees it, should be immune to workplace fads, even if he’s just recast normcore as just that.