the architecture of ingenuity: where great design happens
(above) the mclaren group headquarters in woking, UK
image © mclaren




where does great design happen? it can arise out of a home garage, in a local cafe or on a university campus — creativity is everywhere. some of the world’s leading companies at the forefront of their fields in technology, performance, sustainability and innovation have built radical, unconventional and magnificent work spaces to house their teams of talented and passionate staff, constructed to cultivate visionary ideas. under the belief that creating positive work territories fosters and facilitates creative thinking, companies such as Oakley, the mclaren group, mozilla and heavybit industries occupy complexes and campuses. whether complete with design studios, laboratories, production centers or shops, each office reflects the company’s core values and fuels a spirit of ingenuity, resourcefulness and skill within the dedicated staff.


as an innovator of formula one cars, high-performance road cars, electronic systems and composite materials, the mclaren group requires a headquarters to meet the needs of the design team and one that reflects the company’s engineering expertise. the diverse staff of dedicated researchers, developers, designers and engineers occupy the expansive, semi-circular structure by foster + partners in woking, UK, sunlit by vast floor-to-ceiling windows and completed, in form, by an adjacent lake. the facade which faces the tranquil and magnificent pool of water is a continuous curved glass wall, developed in part using mclaren’s own technological ingenuity.

the architecture of where great design happens
the frame of the building is big enough to house nine boeing 747 jumbo jets
image courtesy of foster + partners




57,000 square meters of office space houses the majority of the mclaren group under one roof, big enough to hold nine boeing 747 jumbo jets. with a team of professionals constantly striving to develop the world’s most technologically advanced cars, the headquarters comprises facilities at the forefront of the field: design studios, laboratories and a neighboring testing and a production center for formula one and high-performance sports cars form the backbone of the company operations. on-site social facilities include a swimming pool and a fitness center, promoting personal well-being which, in turn, strengthens team commitment and happiness.

the architecture of ingenuity: where great design happens
appliation of body to frame within the production center
image © nigel young




a distinct yet connected production center lies immediately to the south-west of the undulating main site, bridged by a subterranean walkway lined with interactive exhibition galleries. the assembly plant is a state-of-the-art space, sharing a common language in architectural details as the former, with aluminum cladding tubes and a circular glass drum mimicked beneath the overhang of the roof canopy. the addition has allowed mclaren automotive to step up its production capability and to introduce a range of new road cars. the headquarters allows innovation to thrive, enabling the talented team of experts to develop the most technologically advanced racing series in the world through dedication, creativity and redefining the realms of what is traditionally possible.  

the architecture of where great design happens
the massive One Icon sits above the rocky terrain of foothill ranch, california



like a fortified citadel from a science fiction film, the massive One Icon sits above the rocky terrain of foothill ranch, california. innovation happens here, as it is the home to the radical group of designers, manufactures, developers and producers that make up the Oakley team. a highly unconventional headquarters is the architectural embodiment of Oakley’s design culture and stands as space to reflect the heritage of ingenuity that the company has always epitomized.

the architecture of where great design happens
One Icon: Oakley’s home of disruption in California, USA




Oakley CEO colin baden designed One Icon to facilitate the forward thinking that remains a trademark of the brand. the 675,000 sq foot complex contains a 400-seat amphitheater, underground museum, research and development lab, manufacturing and production sector, and merchandise shop, where at least 1,500 people work on a daily basis. as employes and visitors approach the colossal bunker building, one of the first things to notice is a world war II era attack tank, complete with a top-mounted cannon, chain drive, and company name emblazoned across its side. stepping inside the main entryway means penetrating the metallic, otherworldly sculpture that towers overhead, constructed as a constant reminder of Oakley’s commitment to deliver the unexpected. ejection seats and fighter jets line the entrance hall, and an overall industrial interior scheme perpetuates the sense of being inside a living machine of innovation. an on-site helipad, radio-controlled car track, dirt pump track for cyclists and modified driving range fuel the energy levels of the team and encourage the innovative ideas and radical design standards that make Oakley a leader in their field. 



Oakley CEO colin baden recounts the experience of designing a landmark
video courtesy of Oakley




located in the the heart of san francisco’s SOMA district, heavybit industries occupies an existing former warehouse with an industrial concrete and timber heritage. the space is suited to host an innovative working platform, designed as a community space for early stage companies which make cloud developer products. under one roof, company founders, entrepreneurs and budding start-ups come together to build the next generation of products. the 9-month heavybit program fosters and promotes solution-finding and business development in a relatively new branch of the computing industry, by accommodating presentations, public events, educational visits, advisement, and inter-developer collaboration within the clubhouse-like three story space.

the architecture of ingenuity: where great design happens
heavybit industries offices in the SOMA district of san francisco CA
image courtesy of iwamotoscott




iwamotoscott architecture built a series of interventions within the existing shell of the structure, with an emphasis on the building’s physical and vintage industrial qualities to contrast the ephemeral properties of the cloud industry. the first floor accommodates a collective dining area that doubles its purpose as a space for speaker presentations, conferences, bike storage, and informal work areas. a multi-functional platform at ground level incorporates a main stairway suspended from a series of steel fins. the hexagonal steel used between the fins is a direct reference to the company logo of the hexagon, reflecting  the company through the architecture. the top two levels are planned as an open working environment with desk pods and several conference rooms on each floor. the spaces are made to appear as a set of sliding walls, and have been constructed from steel frames and exposed metal studs.

the architecture of ingenuity: where great design happens
the existing former warehouse has been transformed into a collaborative workspace
image courtesy of iwamotoscott



the architecture studio innovated the ‘hexcell’ fabric ceiling for the project, defying the predictable qualities of the ordinary materials from which it is made. the lightweight tensile ceiling structure is made of ordinary non-woven mesh, designed using a physics modeler so that the flexible fabric is equally taut in all directions. this effect is geometrically precise and acts as a light diffuser above the first floor conference room.

the architecture of ingenuity: where great design happens
the ‘hexcell’ installation on the ceiling uses a hexagonal plan pattern that recalls the heavybit logo




mozilla’s japan office by nosigner is designed to reflect the web browser’s cutting-edge, open source approach to the software industry. the architecture has innovated an accessible, downloadable furniture system which has been employed to outfit the entirety of the workspace. the ‘mozilla factory’ is constructed from shared, digital components available through the internet, which include polycarbonate panels that allow individuals to easily edit their space accordingly. corner modules attached to desks assist in composing essential office elements like tables, shelves or lights; a flooring system is made of a material otherwise used in packaging objects: recycled plastic palette units. this translation of material rethinks the ways in which conventional surfaces can be evolved and reimagined. 

the architecture of ingenuity: where great design happens
the designs which furnish the ‘mozilla factory’ in japan are free to download from the internet




encouraging constant innovation, the designs which furnish the ‘mozilla factory’ are free to download (the general products and all drawings are uploaded to the internet), enabling anybody to use the software to construct their own inventive, yet inexpensive, office. the versatile and flexible nature of the space means that company can be ready for anything: furniture can be cleared to make room for a talk or presentation, or additional units can be added to accommodate more personnel. the unconventional thinking built within the mozilla workplace demonstrates the limitless possibility of what can be achieved when technology and design unite.

the architecture of ingenuity: where great design happens
the space can easily be modified from work space to presentation forum




disruptive by design’ is about shaking up the norms and challenging yourself to be a game changer – on a large or small scale. whether it’s through material innovation, form, social or economic impact – it is all about being a revolutionary thinker. Oakley, in collaboration with designboom is looking for design #disruptors who will challenge expectations and amaze the world with their approach to design. 


do you disregard the usual creative parameters, think unconventionally and want to change the world? then you are a design disruptor. create an innovative design that will disrupt elite sports performance in a way that hasn’t been seen before. there are no limits to where your inspiration comes from, and there are no restrictions on the format of your concept. it could be a digital design, garment, new way to use technology, product, even a piece of architecture. the only rule is that it needs to fit the parameters of ‘disruptive by design’.


for more information, visit the Oakley ‘disruptive by design’ call-for-entries and official competition rules.
submissions deadline is july 28th, 2014 23:59 (GMT).