Architecture + Design

An Out-of-the-Box Office

2,909 pounds of steel, more than 80 pounds of bolts, 722 beers, and countless hours of sweat equity later...

Photo by Westwerk Design

WHERE: Northeast Minneapolis PROJECT DIRECTOR: Dave West

Add up 2,909 pounds of steel, more than 80 pounds of bolts, 722 beers, and countless hours of sweat equity, and you’ll have only a hint of what it took Dave West, agency director of interactive design company Westwerk Design, plus three partners and their crew to convert a 4,500-square-foot raw basement into a killer office.

“Our challenge was how to warm up a concrete box,” says West. Tucked under a brick building in Northeast Minneapolis, a blue “W” sign pops out like a wink from the parking lot. “Some say this area is akin to Red Hook,” he adds. West took a cue from that industrial Brooklyn feel and modeled the office after a 1940s warehouse, using steel, wood, and glass as the main materials and mixing in reused parts, such as a half wall fashioned out of elevator doors, vintage crates for seating and shelves, and 55-gallon drums for tree holders.

The giant room with 15.5-foot-tall ceilings is broken up into two sections: one constitutes work—with open cubes, two shared offices, a conference room, and a lofted library—and the other play. The “speakeasy,” as West describes it, has gaming accoutrements that tech creatives might expect (a pool table, foosball) but with exceptional add-ons—a tufted booth to sink into for lunch and a full bar where beer from the company’s client Rush River is on tap. Says West: “As long as our employees get their work done, they can take an hour to play or grab a beer whenever they want.”

It also paid to have the guys at glass workshop Hennepin Made next door. The companies traded services: branding for construction, which included fabricating 400-pound glass-and-steel sliding doors and installing 13 hand-blown pendant lights throughout. West had his hand in most of it, working 10- to 14-hour days. One of his pet projects was crafting a wall with hundreds of pieces of wood lath, each segment hand-dipped in six different dyes to reach the desired warm-brown hue.

After 145 days, more than 57 gallons of paint, 3,489 cups of coffee, and 110 trips to Home Depot, the office was ready for business. West, who had counted every last detail of the process, pinned up the stats on display boards for the launch party with only one more thing to do: crack open the 723rd beer to celebrate.

—Megan Kaplan

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