Projects

Uber

Uber takes O+A’s concept of design-as story to another level. The story of a San Francisco start-up with a new idea for urban transportation becoming, in five years, a transformative global presence in over 200 cities had to be told on an epic scale. But Uber’s service is all about one-to-one connection. O+A’s challenge was how to balance the big narrative of its meteoric rise with the intimacy and luxury of a ride across town.

Uber takes O+A’s concept of design-as story to another level. The story of a San Francisco start-up with a new idea for urban transportation becoming, in five years, a transformative global presence in over 200 cities had to be told on an epic scale. But Uber’s service is all about one-to-one connection. O+A’s challenge was how to balance the big narrative of its meteoric rise with the intimacy and luxury of a ride across town.

  • City San Francisco, CA

  • Year 2014

  • Size 90,000 sq ft

  • Team Denise Cherry, Clem Soga, Steve Gerten, Elizabeth Guerrero, David Hunter, Reema Farhat, Chase Lunt, Olivia Ward, Jeorge Jordan, Alma Lopez, Sarah Dziuba, Alfred Socias

  • Photographer Jasper Sanidad

All Together… Quietly

When O+A asked Uber employees what kind of environments they liked to work in, two answers predominated: universities and coffee shops. What do those places have in common? Both assemble people in shared spaces for (mostly) heads down work. Uber’s San Francisco headquarters is a vast space made up of many interlocking comfort zones, an artful orchestration of communal areas and small enclaves for solo concentration.

Uber Black / UberX

It is also, in every detail of the design, an expression of Uber’s culture of independence. Most design projects begin with the practical—how many conference rooms, who sits where? This one, per the CEO’s instructions began, with aesthetics. Finish choices on this project reflect both branches of Uber’s two-tiered service. Uber Black, the luxury car option, is represented by the onyx glass of the elevator lobby (like the tinted glass of a limousine) and by meeting structures clad in copper and oxidized maple. Uber X the economy option finds expression in untreated concrete, raw steel and Polygal.

Central Dispatch

With operations on every continent but Antarctica, Uber’s San Francisco headquarters is the hub of a 24/7 enterprise. As such, it is of necessity an assembly of meeting spaces. Booths with wall-mounted touchscreen booking tablets, freestanding glass-walled conference shelters, luxury boxes upholstered floor-to-ceiling in leather, café and lounge areas of extraordinary variety. And at the center of it all: a “war room” for executive-level problem solving equipped like a bunker to accommodate its occupants for as long as it takes.

London as Sculpture, Shanghai as Art

One of the recurring design motifs at Uber is the urban street map—throughout the space the streets of the 200-plus cities Uber serves worldwide are visible on interactive screens, etched into the leather of meeting room walls, cut into blackened steel separation panels. At once abstract and organic, these patterns capture the complexity—and the beauty—of Uber’s mission.

“You have to find ways to find that center, to find balance, to find sanity…”

Travis Kalanick
CEO, Uber