Using Pop Art To Design A Different Type Of Office Space



A workspace at 1600 Market St. featuring pop art murals of Questlove and Pink.

Designing an office that employees are excited to come to each day is about more than picking aesthetically pleasing elements — it is about creating a space that inspires. 

How an office is designed can have a significant impact on worker health and productivity, and as companies search for ways to bring employees back together after two years of working from home, it has never been more important for them to think about how the design of their space is influencing company culture. 

Janet Pogue, a principal and global workplace research leader at global design firm Gensler, told Wealth Management the pandemic has created fundamental shifts in how employees work and a new “awareness and appreciation” of how they spend their time. Simply put, a traditional office space with cubicles, beige walls and a few common areas is no longer going to cut it. Today, employees are looking for more — and it starts with bringing a touch of creativity to the tried-and-true office design. 

Experts from workplace innovation and real estate strategy firm PLASTARC told Work Design Magazine that dozens of studies conducted over the last several years have found that installing thoughtfully chosen art in the workplace can  “elevate employee performance, mood, and physical well-being, as well as bolster interpersonal bonds between employees and clients.” Art can also serve as a landmark in buildings, they said, helping people remember where they have been and stamping a lasting impression while showcasing a company’s unique culture. 


The lobby of 1600 Market St., featuring a sculpture of Willy The Fox, a nod to the building’s rich history.

Art in the workplace can also be used to celebrate local culture and help employees feel more connected to their office. If workers feel pride in their cities, they will appreciate seeing that pride reflected where they work. 

One office building that is using art to not only inspire employees but foster a greater connection with the community is 1600 Market St., located in the heart of Center City in Philadelphia. American Real Estate Partners began the renovation of this classic city office building in 2019 and has transformed it into “a unique workplace with an electric energy where productivity is elevated and where people feel comfortable and connected.” 

Along with amenities like a spa-inspired fitness center, an Elixr Coffee Roasters coffee bar in the lobby and Curbside Kitchen’s food vendors, which offer a rotation of curated options, 1600 Market elevates the tenant experience through art and design, with pop art throughout that connects people to the office and celebrates the uniqueness of Philadelphia. 

“From the moment you step into 1600 Market, you know you are in a very different kind of office environment, one that celebrates creativity, history and people who do great things,” said Louise Boulton-Lear, AREP vice president of brand marketing. “The pop art brings whimsy, energy and fun, yet it’s grounded in a building designed around well-being, flexibility and productivity. Tenants want space that reflects their needs for different kinds of work throughout the day. They want space to collaborate, space to do deep work and space to recharge. 1600 Market offers those valuable options.”


Elixr Coffee Roasters, one of the many amenities available to tenants and guests at 1600 Market St.

When visitors enter the lobby, the first thing they will spot is a specially commissioned bright yellow statue of Willy The Fox holding a red balloon above the reception desk. This is a nod to the fact that the building is located where the old Fox Theatre once stood. As employees and guests venture further into 1600 Market, they will find more examples of pop art that celebrate the history of Philadelphia throughout each section of the building. This ranges from the fitness center featuring artwork of Kobe Bryant and a mural of Philly landmarks leading to the lounge to graffiti-style images of the city’s most influential sons and daughters throughout. 

“From Benjamin Franklin and Betsy Ross to Pink to Questlove, we wanted to celebrate Philly’s past and present,” Boulton-Lear said. “The people we feature in 1600’s art have contributed their ideas and talents with national and global impact, from helping create the city and found our nation to representing a diverse group of present-day Philly-born influencers who speak out today for justice and equality.”

She added that these Philly originals have brought joy to people through their independent spirit and a vision for America that is rendered in history, music, acting and sports. All of these artful tributes reflect the diverse fabric of Philadelphia. A collage-style mural in the second-floor elevator bank pays homage to Philly’s proud traditions, landmarks and pop art culture. 

While the art of 1600 Market was commissioned to celebrate Philadelphia and boost tenants’ and visitors’ mental well-being, AREP also focused on its building community’s physical well-being. A 2020 Gensler survey found that workers are looking for an office to support their needs for “physical, emotional and health security at work.” 

With that in mind, AREP has not only met but exceeded guidelines set out by health authorities related to air quality, including doubling the outside air settings from 20% to 40% to maximize fresh air exchange. All of AREP’s buildings are WELL Health-Safety rated, and the company is the first commercial real estate company in the U.S. to achieve UL Industries Healthy Buildings Verification mark for indoor air and water portfolio-wide.

According to Kerri Thomas, AREP’s senior vice president of leasing, AREP’s mission is to create a dynamic workplace where people want to be and feel comfortable and confident.

“Wellness has always been an AREP hallmark and differentiator. Competition for tenants has become fierce, and what wins the day is creating places that people want to be, where their health and well-being is a priority and where creativity and productivity are energized,” Thomas said. “The renovation, paired with AREP’s customer-centric management of 1600 Market, creates a dynamic workplace where people feel comfortable and want to be.

This article was produced in collaboration between Studio B and 1600 Market St. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.

Studio B is Bisnow’s in-house content and design studio. To learn more about how Studio B can help your team, reach out to [email protected]


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