An Office Design So Livable You Might Just Move In

With a climbing wall, swimming pool, kitchen, and garden for employees, this design in Austria upends any semblance of work-life balance.

Most of us spend at least half of our waking hours at work, but we don’t usually think of the office as a “living” space–life is something that happens after work. Attempts to make an office space better, like a ping-pong table or two, tend to be added to conventional buildings. But architects for a new office in Austria tried to build livability into the design from scratch.


Inside the lobby, there’s a three-story climbing wall, and spaces to relax are embedded throughout the office. There’s an on-site gym, a space to cook next to an outdoor terrace, a swimming pool in back, and even sleeping bunks if anyone needs to take a nap.

“From the beginning the concept of quality of life and leisure culture took a mayor part in the planning,” say the architects, from Vienna-based Heri & Sally. “The traditional aspect of ‘going to work’ therefore has received minor consideration.”

Outside, a large garden is under construction, and will eventually include donkeys, sheep, chickens, and geese. Each employee will work in the garden a couple of hours a week–during work hours–and get to take produce home with them.

Since the company that owns the office happens to make facades for buildings, the outside of the office has a unique beam structure they can use to test out facade designs. When it’s not in use, it doubles as another climbing gym for employees to play on.

The architects also tried to make the office as sustainable as possible. Everything is constructed from wood, even the elevator shaft, and the building is ultra-efficient. Solar panels on the roof provide all of the electricity for the office, plus enough extra to feed back into the grid for the city. Each detail was carefully considered; the swimming pool is heated from waste heat from the server, and the server is cooled with water from the pool.

Instead of gas heaters, the building burns wood supplied from local farms, and in the summer, the office is naturally cooled at night. Windows automatically slide open and shut to regulate the temperature and bring in air from the forest behind the building. Windows throughout the office also open whenever the building detects that CO2 levels are getting too high.


The building also collects rainwater, and the company has a few other sustainability perks, like offering free bikes to any employees who live within about nine miles of the office.

The design was driven by the clients, who strongly believed in reinventing the typical office space. “The idea was that we create not only a office . . . we wanted to try to embed the task ‘work’ in a living environment,” says Josef Saller, one of the co-founders of Heri & Sally. “I think this is a general philosophy about work–how to understand the surroundings of work, and how to understand work. Working is also living.”

About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley.