Yelp, the top ranked user driven review and recommendation website and app, was drawn to locating their growing Midwest offices in a part of Chicago that is surrounded by the raw energy of urban life – the elevated train line, the resurgent river, an eclectic neighborhood of offices, restaurants, shops and residences. Their new office occupies a significant corner of the majestic Merchandise Mart overlooking the nexus of the three branches of the Chicago River below. The Mart, itself a small city with a daily population of 15,000, was originally built as a vast edifice for showrooms of goods. Today, after a recent transformation, the building has become a hub of tech companies looking for an authentic urban environment with floors large enough to accommodate growth and expansion.
Yelp’s business, at its core is, is fueled by the candid, varied opinions of the masses. Sometimes polished, sometimes tarnished, these consumer reviews expose and reveal their unvarnished personal experiences of commerce. Yelp’s offices embrace a similar exposed honesty in the design of the workspace.
Layers of past finishes were stripped from the columns and ceilings to reveal the bare structure. Mechanical systems are purposefully left uncovered to feature their messy vitality. New finishes were selected to complement this raw and vibrant expression of the urban condition: rough clay tile, hefty timber planks, and bolted steel beams evoke an urban aesthetic. It is as if the offices were built with found materials beneath the El tracks or in some back-of-the-house service area.
New room enclosures are simple, bold, and utilitarian. Community spaces are detailed to recall bridge structures and transit framework. A central corridor, connecting auxiliary paths through the office, features pops of red accent color recalling Yelp’s iconic burst logo. The “just finished enough” environment is the perfect stage for Yelp’s workforce to inhabit and make their own – just as the users of their website express themselves to whomever is interested in listening.
This first phase of offices occupies 50,000 sf of space for 375 employees of Yelp’s growing presence in Chicago. In addition to conferencing and teaming areas and 100 seat training room, the offices feature a 180 seat break area with full-time barista staffed coffee bar, post-work beer bar and game room.
Photography © Tom Harris – Hedrich Blessing