Designing Unity in Detroit — Pophouse’s Approach to Transforming Rock Ventures HQ

Innovation, collaboration, and transformative design have converged to create the magnificent Rock Ventures Headquarters in downtown Detroit.

By Brandi Koloski

Photography by John D’Angelo

Row of brown upholstered Alfred Barsools.

Innovation, collaboration, and transformative design have converged to create the magnificent Rock Ventures Headquarters in downtown Detroit, designed by Pophouse. The Rock Family of Companies, spearheaded by Detroit native, Dan Gilbert, now has a new space that symbolizes unity, support, and creativity, all while fostering collaboration. Spanning 50,000 square feet in the One Campus Martius Building, this project represents the diverse spectrum of industries united under the Rock Family of Companies umbrella. Pophouse has skillfully curated an environment that encapsulates the spirit of Detroit, celebrates diverse industries, and promotes community engagement.

Design with a Purpose — Pophouse's Approach

Started in 2013 by Dan Gilbert's wife and business partner, Jennifer Gilbert, Pophouse is a Detroit-based full-scope interior design studio that believes purposeful design can change the way people work, live and interact with each other. They embrace a data-driven approach to interior design, incorporating the latest findings on elements like biophilia. As a member of the Rock Family of Companies, Pophouse was deeply connected to the project's goals, allowing them to create a space that encourages creativity and communication.

Spiral staircase at corporate office.

The Central Hub

The team at Pophouse embarked on a journey to design a transformative space that fosters creativity, collaboration, and connection. The Rock Ventures Headquarters was carefully chosen as the venue to emphasize the critical role this team plays in uniting various family companies while encouraging interactions. The project was not without its challenges, one of which was the monumental spiral staircase — a central feature of the office that connects the lower and upper levels.

The building itself is an infill in a downtown Detroit complex, and this ambitious staircase was envisioned to unite different teams across two floors. This spiral staircase is not only a utilitarian connection between levels — it's a symbol of unity, creating opportunities for employees to interact, fostering a sense of belonging to a larger enterprise. This important design element posed a structural challenge as it required cutting through newly constructed floors. A bold decision was made to proceed with the staircase, resulting in stunning and serendipitous encounters between employees.

Pophouse collaborated with Library Street Collective, a downtown Detroit gallery, to select pieces from artists who push boundaries. A standout artwork by Faile anchors the grand staircase, embodying the spirit of the city with words like "heart," "hope," and "dream." The inclusion of works by local artists like Jason Revok and the late Charles McGee further underscores Detroit's proud cultural heritage.

Rock Venture HQ

A Local Focus

Reflected in curated installations, the design of the Rock Ventures Headquarters is deeply rooted in purposeful choices and community values. Near the offices devoted to the Rocket Community Fund and the Gilbert Family Foundation, a preserved moss wall illustrates the city's grid and unique neighborhoods in a palette of yellows and greens. Embedded within this organic canvas are laser-engraved wooden boards that narrate the community initiatives undertaken by Rock Ventures' organizations.

As Motor City natives, Dan and Jennifer Gilbert share a resolute commitment to rejuvenating their hometown. Following the relocation of Rock Ventures to the dwindling downtown area, Bedrock, a real estate company within the Rock Ventures umbrella, embarked on a mission to revitalize properties in the vicinity. In 2021, the Gilbert Family Foundation announced a significant $500 million pledge to assist in revitalizing Detoit's neighborhoods.

With a local first mindset, the decision to incorporate Grand Rapids Chair was not just a matter of aesthetics but a reflection of the project's celebration of community. Embracing the Michigan-made craftsmanship of a fellow mitten-based company was a conscious choice, further amplifying the narrative of unity and support that this space so eloquently conveys.

"Grand Rapids Chair has pushed design. So many incredible pieces have been developed over the years and it’s great being able to have a local furniture company be our first choice." - Monica Pace, Senior Interior Designer - Pophouse

Embracing Ancillary Spaces

The design of the Rock Ventures Headquarters showcases an impressive array of ancillary spaces. Far from being overlooked corners, ancillary areas have been crafted to foster collaboration, all while maintaining a sense of accessibility and welcoming aesthetics.

Each space is uniquely designed to cater to a range of functions. The kitchen offers a variety of seating options intended to foster culture and collaboration. The Sally Boltdown Stool with its wood seat and metal finishes compliment the soft, rounded elements throughout the kitchen, while the Alfred Chair and Barstool, known to Pophouse as a signature piece due to its versatility and customization options, creates unity with their presence in both the kitchen and the private phone booths in the working space.

As the final details were applied to the Rock Ventures Headquarters, a place of unity emerged that broke down the barriers of a traditional office space. Rock Ventures' unwavering commitment to the community and its revitalization efforts across the city have undeniably advanced Detroit's resurgence. Pophouse's dedication to purposeful design, rooted in data-driven insights and their connection to the Rock Family of Companies, gave rise to a space that not only inspires creativity and communication but also resonates deeply with the spirit of Detroit itself.

"The Alfred has been a treasured chameleon piece for us. It fits into so many landscapes due to its flexible finish options. It appears stately and is a generous sit." - Nicole Pelton, Senior Interior Designer & Furniture Specialist - Pophouse

Did you enjoy learning more about this Detroit-based project? Check out Mad Nice, a restaurant with Italy meets California vibes that is serving up all of the Detroit sauce.