A More Enlightened Way of Working: Dropbox Studios in Dublin
What is the workplace of the future? For Dropbox, the answer lies in their innovative “Virtual First” approach—where remote work is the primary experience, and “Dropbox Studios” are the central gathering spots for collaboration.
With that vision in mind, Dropbox worked with IA Architects and Structure Tone Dublin to create a space for their international headquarters at One Park Place, across from one of Dublin’s oldest parks.
A PLACE FOR EVERYONE WITH A SPACE FOR EVERYTHING
Translating that vision into a functional workplace meant creating a flexible space suitable for small groups and large gatherings of up to 200 people. The client wanted a variety of settings that would support discovery, movement, and team-based activities. They are also committed to achieving sustainability goals, investing in social-good initiatives, and being a force for positive change.
Dynamic design features include touch-down and collaboration areas, alcoves, and meeting rooms. Rooms can be sized using portable partitions and acoustic ceiling treatments and drapes. Movable furniture in each room can be configured to accommodate the requirements of groups. A café, a barista area, and a mothers’ room provide warmth and welcome to all team members.
The overall tone is one of calm and casual sophistication. Soft whites, ash wood veneer, reflective surfaces, and textured plaster walls provide a relaxed and engaging atmosphere. Impeccable craftsmanship is evident throughout the space.
LIGHTING THE WAY
The ceilings on the project were a source of both beauty and challenge. Custom LED lighting throughout the space is designed to enhance and personalize areas, guide team members, and provide an inviting environment for meetings, collaborative interaction, and social occasions. The end result includes the meandering line of illumination along the corridor, curved lines of light in the meeting places, and the soft glow around the edges of the reception area.
The design concept called for exposed soffits in order to enhance the bespoke lighting. According to Structure Tone construction manager, James Henry, coordination of the mechanical and electrical systems and the buildability factor took precedence. “Removing the existing paint on the soffits took four weeks of intensive sandblasting,” he says. “We did it all during off-hours so that normal work days were not affected, both for the Structure Tone team and the other tenants in the building.”
Existing water quality in the building was also a concern and a challenge to finishing the ceiling work. Structure Tone project director John Atkinson notes that the team had to postpone finishing some of the ceiling areas to allow for flushing the water system. “We had to go out of program sequence, but we were able to work with the client to make that schedule work.”
TEAMWORK, COLLABORATION, AND INNOVATION
Teamwork and unity are a source of pride for Atkinson on this project. “The design team and client were an absolute pleasure to work with,” he says. “Despite a number of hurdles being thrown our way by COVID, including maintaining consistent workforce numbers and experiencing a problematic supply chain, there was always an atmosphere of teamwork, transparency, and proactiveness from all members of the team.” He credits regular site walkthroughs, extensive collaboration, and the ability of all parties to work together to agree on alternatives when supply chain disruptions forced changes to the original plan.
Prior to commencing on-site work, Structure Tone engaged IA Architects in specialist joinery workshops in the Redwoods facilities. A 90% early sign-off on samples and design concepts streamlined the building process, kept everyone in sync, and moved the work forward.
“Open and honest communication with the design team and client team, no matter how disruptive the issue, was the backbone of this project’s success,” says Structure Tone project manager Danny Kavanagh. “Live 3D walkthrough software was a very important tool in how we communicated with key Dropbox stakeholders in the US who could not travel due to COVID restrictions.”
BACK TO WORK
In the “Virtual First” model, Dropbox employees come to the studio to connect in-person around a shared purpose. There are no individual workstations for solo work—it is designed and built to support personal connections, flexibility, and work-life harmony.
“We created a new option that we think will help us live our mission of designing a more enlightened way of working and deliver products that make distributed work easier,” Dropbox explained when they announced the program. “We also hope this Virtual First approach will give us the best of remote and in-person work, balancing flexibility with human connection, and creating a more level playing field for everyone.”