Oakland-based, award-winning firm, Medium Plenty, designed a start-up innovation hub and multifaceted workspace for the underserved and underrepresented communities of West Oakland themed around inclusivity. Working with Kapor Capital, a foundation focused on investing in underrepresented entrepreneurs, Medium Plenty transformed a 15,000 sq ft industrial warehouse to create an approachable and flexible space to be used by youth groups to start-ups to serve as a bridge for opportunities in technology. The design moves called for activating the large space by creating maximum flexibility through a variety of multi-functional spaces and furniture and creating open and dedicated offices, large conference areas, a communal kitchen, and lounge area. Medium Plenty collaborated with community developer and artist Binta Ayofemi on the project.
Current tenants and Kapor benefactors, Promise, were interested in the communal aspect of the space. The start-up, founded by Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, former manager for Prince, and Diana Frappier, aims to help low-income Black and Brown people stay out of the criminal justice systems through online apps and tools. With half of their users in the Bay Area, Promise found 1901 Poplar to be an ideal location and space for their Corporate Headquarters as a way to connect with their community. The flexible design offers them the opportunity to work individually or as a team by building brainstorming areas.
Our design team worked with local fabricators to create a set of curated custom furniture elements to activate the largely open and un-programmed space. Clad in warm wood, the furniture pieces consist of wedge-shaped benches and planters in varying sizes, paired with wood and whiteboard screens that can stand alone or nestle alongside the wedges to create privacy. Together, the kit of parts are approachable and engaging and move easily via wheels creating endless configurations and giving the users ultimate control over the arrangement of the space. In minutes, the interior can adapt to accommodate small to large classes or meetings, or a large event complete with a stage for a guest speaker or performance, and a reception desk that doubles as a bar.
The kitchen, visible through a custom wood slat wall upon entering the building, serves as a central hub and symbol of community. Also clad in warm wood and earthy tile with a large wood island on casters in the center, the kitchen functions for day to day use and can also house workshops, popups and bigger events. Adjacent to the kitchen, high and low cafe tables spill into the central “nave” which is surrounded by meeting and lounge spaces at the perimeter, creating a neighborhood feel. These outer spaces offer varying levels of privacy and furniture types (from custom tables to soft seating) to allow for further flexibility and a variety of uses.