What Does A Modern, Trendy Tech Company Need In An 85-Year-Old Iconic Building?
Despite being around since 2003, Shutterstock—which provides licensed images and music to businesses—has expanded exponentially in the last few years. The company, with over 700 team members around the globe and 90 million images, brought in $425M in revenue last year. But it isn’t running out to the WTC, Hudson Yards or any other brand-new, buzzed-about trophy office buildings.
Instead, this TAMI darling has 85k SF in a symbol of a different time for the Manhattan office market: the Empire State Building.
With the company expanding another 25k SF, we took a look at what it has done to the iconic, 85-year-old Art Deco tower to make it a space fit for a trendy tech titan.
The Shutterstock team began its office search in 2012. Analyzing where employees lived, the team calculated that a spot between Penn and Grand Central stations could save employees an average of three minutes of commute time.
The Empire State Building seemed to be the best fit, as it had the size and location the company needed. Head of global facilities Razia Ferdousi-Meyer (pictured) says there’s also the added bonus of the bragging rights.
To determine what was needed, Shutterstock worked with STUDIOS Architecture to study worker and meeting habits for several months. With 61% of meetings having four or fewer people, smaller “pop-in” rooms were preferred over unwieldy meeting spaces.
This has changed, Razia says, now that hundreds are attending meetings.
At the time of the move, the team was much smaller than it is now, and surveys about what would be included in the space were sent around the office. Everything from the name of meeting and conference rooms to the amenity spaces—which include include game rooms, a yoga/meditation room, massage rooms, a “secret library,” extensive gallery space, a mother’s room, a research lounge and a shower—were voted upon.
Working with STUDIOS Architecture again, Shutterstock is expanding to the 36th floor to accommodate growing ranks. Shutterstock's simply too big to try to have the same process, Razia says. Instead, she's focusing on what's absolutely needed. Still, the new floor will have some amenity spaces.
The office has several unique features. While mainly an open floor plan, many hallways connect the different teams and sides of the office, allowing for quiet conversations. However, the seas of desks are relatively quiet, as sound doesn’t carry as one would expect.
Connecting the two floors is one of the largest staircases in the building (pictured), which required several months to acquire and put in place, Razia told Bisnow.
Another unique feature is the terrace. As the only terrace user in the building, Shutterstock was forced to acquire specially designed furniture that would resist wind and fit building codes. The tables, for example, had to weigh more than 275 pounds. It gets windy when you're in one of the earth's tallest buildings (now No. 31 on the list, if you're keeping score).
There are also robots. While not something Asimov would be stressing about, these teleconferencing robots allow Shutterstock’s global workers to communicate and attend meetings “in person.” They do, Razia says, occasionally lose contact when taking elevators between the floors and need a little help, however.
But with all this tech, the company has preserved some aspects of the building’s history. Some of the mail chutes, generators and outdoor paneling still remain, and Shutterstock has replicated these designs throughout.
When completed in 2014, the renovations cost Shutterstock $10M. When asked how Shutterstock could bear the costs of settling in one of NYC’s most iconic and expensive spots, Razia assures they’re “utilizing every inch.”
When not flooded with 450 Shutterstock employees, the space can be used to host high-profile guests, including Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, Mayor Bill de Blasio, Ivanka Trump and so on. Employees also participate in Hackathons and hold film production classes for Bring Your Child To Work Day.
Now working on the expansion, Razia says her background in hospitality, management, and graphic and interior design is instrumental to properly communicating what “Shutterstockers” are looking for, including a Mod Bar coffee station where employees can take a seven-minute mental break and chat. She expects the new floor to come online in December.