Quirky offices in downtown Boston reflect influx of tech firms

By Jon Chesto, The Globe Globe | Feburary 26, 2015

Step off the elevator into Carbonite’s new Boston headquarters, and you’ll quickly learn that the force is with you.

Darth Vader’s instantly recognizable silhouette is on a sliding conference room door. A well-dressed storm trooper gazes out at a small army of software engineers from his perch on a spray-painted mural. Even the bathrooms are in on the act: Instead of men and women, the signs say “Luke” and “Leia.”

Welcome to the new world of downtown office spaces. As tech firms have migrated into the staid Financial District and nearby environs during the past five years, they’ve done their best to put their unique stamps on work spaces. Goodbye, wood paneling. Hello, Yoda.

Their offices have, essentially, become extensions of their brands — physical manifestations of how they view the world, and how they want the world to view them.

In the case of Carbonite’s 50,000-square-foot space at the Lafayette City Center, IA Interior Architects got to work in December 2013 and wrapped up designs last spring, in time for Carbonite to move from the Back Bay to Downtown Crossing. Total relocation and renovation cost: $4 million.

Why Star Wars? The data-backup firm is named after the substance that put Han Solo in a deep freeze in “The Empire Strikes Back.”

Reetika Vijay, managing principal of IA’s Boston office, said her team watched all the movies over one weekend to get inspired.

As it turns out, IA played an important role in several of the quirky Boston renovations done in the past year or so, such as Rapid7’s subway-themed office with rock-and-roll references sprinkled throughout at 100 Summer St. Also in that building, IA redesigned an office for the Game Show Network’s local game development studio. Oversized playing-card motifs are prominently featured.