In the middle of Budapest’s theatre district, between restaurants, ruin bars and tourists, Nagymező utca accommodates one of Hungary’s most important technology enterprises. The Mercury Palace, built in 1903 to host the country’s first telephone centre, is a genuine location for Prezi, a company engaged in helping people transfer their ideas in an appealing way. The new headquarters, designed in parallel with the firm’s San Francisco offices, are situated on four levels of the Mercury Palace. The top floor baptized “ballroom” is an urban garden, a large indoor landscape with hills hiding conference rooms. In the smaller offices, some of the elements are repeated, like plants and trees separating workspaces, a concept recycled from the company’s previous offices. However, each floor and conference room has a distinct identity: as the nearly 200 people in Prezi’s dynamic work scheme change desks almost every week, each space needs a strong theme in order to help orientation. Because of the gradual expansion of Prezi, we did not want to create a concluded office space, throughout the 4000m2 of the building. We designed unfinished spaces, provoking employees by moveable objects and writeable walls to intervene in their environment. This is analogue to how Prezi works: changes are incorporated in the software and their impact is tested continuously. In coherence with the flexibility of the spaces, Prezi asked for simple and cheap materials. They wanted to avoid the coldness of high-tech, using wood and often untreated materials to create proximity, intimacy and sociability.
Enjoying exponential development in the past years, Prezi had successively outgrown its offices. When considering their next move, Prezi’s founders decided to make a long-term plan: in order to manage the process of changing scales, they invited Minusplus to accompany their relocation. The two firms’ shared history informed the design process: similarly to Prezi’s previous offices, the new headquarters were constructed in phases, keeping pace with the company’s expansion. We knew that they would gradually fill the building, but they were faster than expected. We distributed Prezi's future functions throughout the whole building, and the challenge was to move all the initial functions in the upper floor and then allow them migrate gradually to the newly converted spaces. In the absence of fixed working hours, to make people choose to work there, the building has to offer a diversity of situations. When they wake up in the morning and think about where could they work best – in a coffee house, a dark corner or in bed – we want them to find all this here. All floors have coffee points or snack corners, inviting employees to engage in social interaction. The entrance area includes a music corner and a bistro that brings visitors to the building’s semi-public auditorium, the “House of Ideas”, where people meet for general assemblies and public events focusing on technology and culture. In working with Prezi, we were not only designers but partners in the elaboration of their way of working. ‘Custom-made architecture’ to ‘make ideas matter’.