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Brett Thompson at the entrance to the new engineering facility in Fremont, with a portion of the Sound MInd & Body basketball court as a back drop.
Tableau VP Brett Thompson at the entrance to the company’s new Fremont engineering facility, with a portion of the Sound Mind & Body basketball court as back drop.

The squash court is gone, and so are the treadmills, stationary bikes and weight lifting equipment.

New desks will allow employees to raise and lower heights.
New desks will allow employees to raise and lower heights.

But those who look closely at Tableau Software’s soon-to-open engineering center in the former Sound Mind & Body gym in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood may recognize the basketball court.

Nope, the company didn’t keep the full court hardwood as an employee perk (bouncing basketballs and coding just don’t go together).

However, those who enter the facility will notice that the wood court is prominently displayed along accent walls and conference room floors.

That’s just one of the special touches of the 50,000 square foot building, which is nearing completion of a multi-million dollar remodel and next month will begin housing the company’s fast-growing engineering team.

“Part of our design principle is natural and authentic, and wood really fits that,” said VP of Human Resources Brett Thompson who led GeekWire on a tour of the new space this week and described the basketball court walls.

Brett Thompson on the upper floor of Tableau's new 'dev heaven' space.
Brett Thompson on the upper floor of Tableau’s new ‘dev heaven’ space.

In addition to the hardwoods, Tableau was able to preserve the gym’s locker room, making it easy for staffers to clean up after biking, running or kayaking to the office. (The building sits along the Lake Washington Ship Canal and abuts the popular Burke-Gilman bike trail).

Today, Tableau is inviting friends and supporters to a sold-out open house at the new facility, expecting close to 1,000 people.  The building is located just a few blocks west of the company’s main headquarters in Fremont.

Splitting the engineering and product teams away from the main headquarters was not an easy decision for Tableau. But the company — which just topped 1,500 employees worldwide — is bursting at the seams and needed room for its engineers and product designers to breathe. The new building will be home to Tableau co-founder Chris Stolte, who serves as chief development officer and oversees all product development.

Thompson says that they designed the new building to function well with centralized conference rooms and individualized work stations.
Tableau designed the new building to function with centralized conference rooms and individualized work stations.

“It was a touch choice, because we have always co-mingled departments, and we really like that,” said Thompson. “We like to have sales and development understand one another, and have interactions, but as we grow that becomes harder and harder to do, and they are split up on multiple floors anyways. Really, the size of the group, and trying to deliver the right environment for them was more challenging in a building where we are growing so rapidly, you are moving everyone around that you are trying to fit everybody in. We had a fresh clean slate and this was the canvas to try and get that perfect dev environment for them.”

That’s why Thompson dubbed it the “dev heaven” project.

The building features windows that open to the ship canal, and centralized conference rooms to keep chatter at a minimum away from work stations. Teams will be organized in what Thompson calls neighborhoods, making it easy for product teams to meet quickly but also focus on the creativity they need to inject into individual assignments. (He says he’s eliminated all conference room naming conventions around fish, mountains or trees, but seemed open to the idea of naming them after Seattle neighborhoods).

Three kitchens will make it easy for engineers to grab food on the go or sit with co-workers in a more casual setting. Workspaces are designed so that employees can easily control lighting and noise levels. A game room is planned.

But there’s no frilly climbing walls or multi-colored slides connecting floors, something you see at some Silicon Valley companies.

“We are not building sunken ship conference rooms. There are not a lot of slides,” Thompson said. “What we are trying to do is create a very functional space that inspires people so that they feel good when they come in here.”

Tableau’s new offices boast stunning views of the Lake Washington Ship Canal.

The fact that Tableau wanted to stay in its long-time home of Fremont presented additional real estate challenges, since the quirky neighborhood (which is also home to GeekWire and other tech companies such as Impinj, Google, Haiku Deck and Adobe) doesn’t have the big floor plans of downtown Seattle.

“Our goal is that we’d love to remain in Fremont,” said Thompson. “I describe that as a game of Tetris. I can only tell you the pieces that are coming down, and I have got to make them fit. The ones that haven’t come down, I don’t know. But that is our goal, and we hopefully will be able to achieve that.”

The company has about 200,000 square feet in Seattle’s Fremont area. Asked about whether Tableau would ever consider moving to Amgen’s waterfront campus, Thompson said that the 750,000 square facility is a “big chunk” and that the company is conservative when it comes to taken down new space.  (Previously on GeekWire: Amazon’s new waterfront home? Five ideas for Amgen’s beautiful Seattle campus)

Tableau has long called Fremont home, getting its start in Seattle in the Burke Building across the street from the new engineering center. With a 10-year lease at the new facility, the data visualization company appears to be firmly anchored in the “Center of the Universe.”

Editor’s note: Tableau is a GeekWire annual sponsor. 

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