One of the highlights of this month's issue (W*188) is a detailed tour of Kickstarter's unique Brooklyn headquarters. Earlier this year the crowd-funding authority not only moved its operations to a nondescript industrial block in Greenpoint but bought the new digs outright – a rarity in the start-up world.
At 29,000 sq ft, Kickstarter's new space is a world away from the three narrow floors it previously occupied in a crumbling tenement building in Manhattan's Lower East Side. It's located in the Eberhard Faber Pencil Factory Historic District, a complex of eight buildings constructed in the 1890s and landmarked in 2008 as testament to Brooklyn's industrial age.
Although moldings of large pencils flank the topmost windows in neighbouring buildings, Kickstarter's two-storey acquisition was largely in disarray initially, having been gutted when the previous owner hoped to turn it into a high-rise hotel (then abandoned it when those plans fell through). All that was left were the walls and a makeshift roof. There were no pencils on its red-brick façade, only graffiti.
While architect Ole Sondresen worked his magic to rehabilitate and transform the building, repurposing as much of the original infrastructure as possible, designer Camille Finefrock was the force behind the charming interiors and the distinctive rooftop and courtyard gardens. Finefrock's vision for the ground-floor courtyard was to offer an unkempt moment of calm for Kickstarter employees.
'Because Yancey [Strickler] and Perry [Chen] had the foresight to make the centre of the building a garden,' she says of the CEO and chairman, 'my perception of the space was that this is the heart of the building. I wanted to create a portrait of the woods. At any time in the year, people can look through the window and connect to what's happening in nature.'
Filled with ferns, river birches, swamp azalea and other plants native to Long Island and the Northeast, the luscious garden is an uplifting feature. Apart from installing a Japanese-inspired rain chain, which gently jiggles as rain runs down it, Finefrock also created a flat meditation stone under a redbud tree, which is available for anyone's use.
In contrast to the serenity provided by the courtyard, the rooftop garden offers a different type of reprieve. It includes a solarium, where people can recline in rattan loungers and peer down at the main work hub, and a gravel walking path that meanders around woodland plants and blossoming flower beds that change with the seasons. In the edible food garden, staff can graze freely on blueberries, tomatoes and kale by a cut-flower patch where they can collect blooms for their workspaces. A decked portion facilitates working outdoors and allows for movie screenings when the sun sets.
'I wanted to evoke the feeling of what would have been in this spot on Long Island hundreds of years ago,' says Finefrock. 'The pine barrens, coastal plants and beech plum trees growing in sandy soil – they're all reminders of the water being right there.'
The designer's eye for detail doesn't stop there. Indoors, custom-made standing lamps, artfully placed vintage furniture and topographical maps on the library walls perpetuate a sense of wonder. 'A lot of the thinking revolved around how to turn an old factory into an ideas factory,' says Finefrock. 'Pencils were a creative tool, and Kickstarter is a creative tool too.'