Expensify Infuses a Cold, Cavernous Former Downtown Bank with Life—and Dogs
When San Francisco–based tech start-up Expensify decided to open offices in Portland two years ago, a real estate broker found an unusual spot: the century-old First National Bank building at SW Fifth and Harvey Milk. The expansive space (it has 55-foot-high ceilings) had been long vacant, but its neoclassical details were intact: ionic columns, a gold-leafed clock, historic pendant light fixtures, and three grand bank vaults. CEO David Barrett hired ZGF Architects (known for transforming the Spruce Goose hangar in LA into chic Google offices and for renovations at Portland International Airport) to tackle this adaptive-reuse project.
Expensify, an app that helps users organize their business expenses, has a unique approach to office space.
“No one has a set desk—not even our CEO—and there’s [very little] paper, and no receptionist,” explains Niki Wallroth, facility and operations lead for Expensify’s Portland outpost.
The company asked Alan Gerencer of ZGF to create a variety of discrete spaces for working—some communal, some private. As a result, there’s a work space for every mood, task, and personality: a 42-foot-long table, two floating glass-enclosed offices with sofas and chairs, a speakeasy-style lounge (complete with a fully stocked bar and tufted leather chairs), a Mad Men–like boardroom with walnut floors, a vault-turned-lending-library, and even a swinging bed, inspired by a company-wide trip to Cambodia. (There’s also a second-floor kitchenette—where snacks, Stumptown coffee, and kombucha are free-flowing—and a full-service kitchen on the third floor.)
On the day I visited, several employees were studiously at work—one with his sidekick, a miniature poodle named Chili—in one of four oak huts in “the Village”—a remote area on the third floor meant to evoke a Scandinavian village. All of which may sound a bit extravagant until you realize it helps employees fulfill the company’s first rule: Get Shit Done.