When Twitter was building a second dining room for its Market Square headquarters in San Francisco, architect Olle Lundberg was tasked with with making the potentially awkward space feel comfortable.
Where its main cafeteria is located in a grand double-height room with an adjoining rooftop terrace, the only available space for a second cafeteria was a long, claustrophobic interior room that stretched across almost 7,000 square feet, stunted by 10-foot-tall ceilings.
“No matter how you decorated it, the square is just long. The ceiling’s too low,” Lundberg says. “It’s always going to feel like something’s not quite right.”
His solution: Break up the space by dividing it into multiple rooms. To do so, the Lundberg Design principal turned to Craigslist, and a pair of log cabins built in Montana in the 19th century.
Lundberg got in touch with Karl Beckmann, an engineer who was advertising dismantled log cabins on Craigslist a year or two earlier. Beckmann tracked down two 400-square-foot log cabins from the 1870s that were about to be demolished, had them dismantled, cataloged, and shipped from Montana to the Bay Area. From there, Lundberg and his team reassembled them (minus the roof) in an empty lot to experiment with how they would look inside the building.
“The interesting thing about a log cabin is they’re put together as these modules,” according to Lundberg. “They’re quite easy to take apart–you just reverse the process. They’re just held together by their own weight.”
The next step–getting the 20-foot-long logs up to the sixth floor of Twitter’s urban headquarters–was not so easy. “The exterior was all done so we didn’t have the option to crane them in,” Lundberg explains. The logs fit in the building’s freight elevator, but barely. “They had to go diagonally in, from one bottom corner to the opposite top corner, three logs at a time,” Lundberg describes. To comply with local building codes, the logs had to be fumigated, fire-treated, and bolted to the ceiling and floor with metal braces (per earthquake safety regulations).
The cabins balance out the low ceilings by visually breaking up the length of the room. They are lit from above with spotlights designed to exaggerate the texture of the rough-hewn wood, which still bears the axe marks of the craftsmen who built the cabins more than a century ago. Inside, the cabins offer a sense of privacy and seating for small meetings or gatherings.
Their rough wooden aesthetic fits in with the rest of the office, which features refurbished elements like a reception desk made out of Douglas fir scraps salvaged from an old bowling alley. In his early discussions with the company, back when it only boasted 40 employees, Lundberg discovered a corporate affinity for a forest-like visual identity.
“They had this kind of visceral connection to nature and to the forest,” Lundberg says, a connection that tied back to Twitter’s bird logo. So the patterned carpet on the floor of the office is designed to evoke the look of a forest floor, and light fixtures are made out of branches. The vintage wooden cabins, Lundberg says, are a “nice exclamation point to the whole approach.
“So much of the building materials we use today are machine-made. The hands of the craftsman are no longer particularly visible,” he continues. “Here, you really can see each blow of the axe. You see 150 years sitting out in Montana winters and summers. There’s a character to that wood you can’t replicate.”