Walk just five minutes from the boardwalk along the San Diego Bay into to what used to be the wrong side of the tracks; derelict, dangerous and forgotten.
Within a decade, San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter has become a thriving core full of burgeoning businesses, trendy cafes and swanky restaurants. The in the shadow of the Padre’s Petco Park, passersby get a glimpse into what looks like the newest café, bar or art gallery.
Underground Elephant started in 2008 by CEO and founder Jason Kulpa. Inside of eight years, the company has grown to more than 100 people. In 2016, the company moved into is new home in San Diego’s downtown.
Designed in collaboration with Paul Basile, the 22,500-square-foot Wellman Peck building afforded the opportunity to create something special and totally unique. Inspired by the history of the former produce packing market, the office is modeled after a miniature town. Greeted by a barn wood desk, a windmill and functioning 1933 tractor, it is clear upon entry that this is not your average digital marketing operation.
Underground Elephant’s marketing platform serves essentially every industry from e commerce, financial services, education and insurance. The staff is primarily made up of customer service, sales and development teams, all working from the new space.
Underground Elephant’s growing team is made up of young professionals and new grads. With that in mind, the office spaces were built for a new generation. Each staffer has their own workstation outfitted with three monitors for hardcore productivity but and every few months the seating plan changes. This ensures that different people are intermingling and keeps the work experience fresh.
If the desk gets old, there are several “vignettes” built through the office for staffers to work from: a sunken lounge, a posh café, a lofted game lounge, and the town courtyard with living 100-year-old olive trees are all available spaces catch-up on emails.
There are few rules about how to work in this office except when it come to lunch. Everyone is encouraged to eat lunch in one of the open areas instead of their desk. Few oppose this as the office offers restaurant-quality facilities, large tables and direct sunlight to recharge.
Staff have access to a well outfitted bar complete with a soda fountain, draft beer and a properly stocked whiskey shelf. The pints usually start pouring around 3:30.
The coffee bar is always stocked with Dark Horse Coffee Roaster beans, sun tea and more caffeine pulling amenities than one would ever need.
Design & Culture
Considering the building was a literal warehouse with a dirt floor, the design process was essential to perfect before construction even began, and that process has paid off with several awards. Designer Paul Basile is renowned for his restaurant designs, but with a warehouse for a canvas, he was able incorporate is big ideas that just wouldn’t fit in a restaurant.
The miniature town theme is grounded by a school house which dominates the East side of the building. Massive swinging doors and windows adapt the space to host meetings, speaking engagements and meet ups. The steel structure is clad with lumber made from the protected Sierra Nevada forest where the only trees permitted for production naturally onto a fire-path.
Larger than life illustrations by San Diego Artist Neil Shingley fill several walls around the office including the CEO’s office.
There are some unique features in the office that speak to the special culture that has been cultivated at Underground Elephant. Health and wellness are highly held values, represented by the in-office shower facilities. With that simple addition, bike-ridership increase 400%.
The most unique feature of this office is reserved for the end of the tour: a prohibition-era speakeasy hidden beneath a hydraulic-powered staircase. The ‘Bunker’, as they call it, is not off limits, but is revered and respected as a place to celebrate special events.
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