Creating the coolest tech office in Helsinki

Tech company Zalando is boasting a brand new office where you can hop on a swing or use the restrooms without having to queue.

There are a couple of things you cannot help noticing when entering the Zalando Helsinki Tech Hub. The company known for its online retail business has premises where Hulk, the green superhero, jumps at you from the fire door, there are also swings with LED lights embedded in them hanging from ceiling beams as well as work stations where one can work in peace and quiet even if there was a party going on in the offices.

But let’s rewind to where it all started. The fast-expanding Zalando started looking for bigger premises in 2015. There was a clear-cut vision from the start: Zalando hoped for not only more space but for a raw industrial look, a vivid colour scheme based on the brand colours and a wide variety of work areas and stations.

Fyra was actively involved in realising this vision from the beginning. Fyra’s interior architects were out and about looking at potential premises with Tuomas Kytömaa, Site Lead at Zalando Tech Hub. Various preliminary layouts were sketched according to different facilities.

Then the team chanced upon a 1400-square-metre space on Runeberginkatu street, in central Helsinki. “When I saw the space I thought wow. You could immediately see the possibility of dividing it in two sections: one high-ceilinged space for events and hanging out, and another dedicated as a quiet working space”, says Taru Leppänen, the Interior Architect at Fyra.

Party while you work

Splitting the space into two resolved the entire interior architecture of the facility. The events area with a ceiling reaching the height of almost ten metres provides an opportunity to play billiards, have lunch, hang out with your colleagues, work in the sofa area on the mezzanine or swing on the light-embedded swings. This section is also used for lectures, events and parties as it can be separated so that people can continue to work at the other end of the premises.

The starting point for the office design was to ensure a quiet atmosphere for working. The layout makes sure that you cannot walk between the work stations as the corridors circle outside the work areas. Phone booths were situated so that there are no distractions or curious looks from passers-by. Solutions were provided for all the special requirements – some of which were more surprising than others. “A larger quantity of men’s restrooms were needed as this predominantly male company offers soft drinks all day,” says Taru Leppänen. The people at Zalando also had another special request in mind: the offices definitely needed superheroes. In the previous office there were pictures laminated and attached on the walls.

“This is the most amazing office”

In addition to Hulk, jumping at you from the fire door, the two adjacent meeting rooms feature Batman and The Joker. Both in graphic black and white, and gnashing their teeth. All the superhero artwork was drawn by artist Rasmus Tikkanen. The employees at Zalando were asked for their input in choosing which heroes should adorn their walls. Everyone was happy with the result. Not only in the artwork but the entire interior design.

“One of the employees told us that this is the first office where their child wants to come to work. Of all Zalando offices throughout the world, this is the most amazing and absolutely the best, which is something even our German colleagues always say”, Tuomas Kytömaa says.

There is loft-esque aesthetics to the premises but with a softer twist. Birch veneer peeled on a lathe, wood stained black as well as white surfaces. These surfaces and colours alternate complementing each other in the interior of both sections of the office. There are plenty of meeting rooms to choose from, be it small two-person rooms or larger conference rooms. They were organised as separate blocks which were stained black on the outside. Glass walls and doors were used to bring an airy, spacious feel.

The whole package

Zalando did not have a real estate manager or a project manager in Finland so Fyra was in charge of not only the designing interior architecture but also of the comprehensive project management of the entire assignment. Zalando’s Kytömaa is extremely grateful and speaks highly of Fyra’s professional competence in design and process management. Another fact he appreciates is that the Fyra team takes a tour of the offices every now and then to check for possible imperfections and contact the developer if something needs to be addressed.

“Fyra was a trusted companion and we will definitely use them in the future. Had they not been there for us in this project this could have turned into a disaster”, says Kytömaa.

Zalando is an international company that is constantly growing meaning that is seen as an appealing employer as such, but Kytömaa sees the new, amazing premises as a huge asset when it comes to recruitment market. “This is really important. It helps branding when you see this is the coolest tech hub in Helsinki.”

Photographer: Sampsa Pärnänen

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