An Undulating Ceiling Unites This Pittsburgh Incubator Office

Using digital modeling and CNC milling, design firm AE7 created this stained birch canopy for the financial technology incubator numo.

NUMO Incubator AE7
numo’s social area is focused around its centrally-located kitchenette. ©Massery Photography Inc.

The challenge for design firm AE7 was to create a unique office space for numo, a fintech (financial technology) incubator located in Pittsburgh, that would stimulate creative collaboration among its employees. AE7 (which has several international offices, including one in Pittsburgh) had already designed several offices in the region—for companies such as Duolingo and JD Palatine—though this design aimed to stand out. AE7 offered numo a graceful design that connects the user experience below with the fluid ceiling above.

numo had selected a 3,800-square-foot space in the Bakery Square Innovation District in Pittsburgh’s East Liberty neighborhood. The office, located within a LEED gold certified building, would accommodate small teams, primarily academics, to create innovative ideas for building consumer and enterprise software.

The office is organized into three zones: the entry zone, the work zone, and the social zone, each serving a dual purpose for independent work and creative collaborative interaction. “When we settled on the design concept, we became interested in studying a fluid ceiling,” explains Teresa Bucco, AE7 senior architect for the project. “We wanted to define the space three-dimensionally.” The resulting undulating ceiling array features one-inch stained birch wood baffles created with parametric design software and CNC milling. The curving spline flows through the space, threading together its zones.

Working on a tight timeline, the team had just five months to complete the project. “The process was fast and highly detailed,” explained DJ Bryant, AE7 architectural designer for the project. The owner, design team, fabricators (Pittsburgh-based Standard and Custom), and contractors all had to make quick decisions and receive quick approvals to stay on budget and schedule. Now in operation, numo aims to inspire its creative teams to brainstorm freely in a space with advanced technology and a fresh, playful mix of warm-cool surfaces and bright accent colors.

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