WPM: Inside a Chinese Tech Company: How Qihoo 360 Works

What does the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva have to do with a Chinese cloud-based internet and mobile security company? In the mind of designer David Ho, plenty. While most of the world knows the Large Hadron Collider for finding the Higgs Boson, the last particles that many say unlock the mystery of the universe, Ho saw it as inspiration for his radical office design at Qihoo 360 Technology Co. in Beijing.

Ho called the project for Qihoo (pronounced CHEE-hoo) and its 387,500 square feet office complex “Future Collider” and set about designing four, radical capsule-shaped pieces in a two-story, open space on the company’s sixth floor to provide a brainstorming area.

What came out of his vision is an astonishing space that has defined Qihoo’s culture and made it a destination employer for the best and brightest Chinese tech workers. China is a country where labor is plentiful, but like every other spot around the globe, talent is not. Because of the Future Collider, Qihoo has had an easier time attracting talent and keeping its 4,200 employees.

These Future Colliders sit on bamboo flooring and are constructed by using strawboard, a renewable agriculture bi-product. The environment was taken into consideration at every step by Ho. He wanted to use innovative products and sustainable construction to create a healthy office environment.

Most of the workstations are located along the window so employees can enjoy the best view and natural light.

The strawboard construction of the structures are worth noting. It was made with 100 percent wheat straw bound together using formaldehyde-free adhesive that was put through a hot press. The strawboard creates a low-carbon structure that is healthy and environmentally friendly.

Since the structures have zero wood content, the product helps reduce deforestation — a serious problem in China and around the world. Since the trees that would have been used are still standing, Ho’s design helps with the country’s air pollution problem.

Most of the workstations are located along the window so employees can enjoy the best view and natural light. On each floor, Ho designed a public pantry near the core area and the main circulation to create more interaction between workers. Collaboration is truly important at offices around the world.

That interaction is especially important to Qihoo 360, one of the most successful tech companies in China. The company had 496 million users for its internet security products and 641 million users for its mobile anti-virus products as of June 2014. Qihoo 360 started by selling third-party, anti-virus software online. Soon the company realized the potential of the “freemium” business model in the Chinese market and started providing its own anti-virus products free of charge. In a short period of time, Qihoo 360’s security products gained popularity and market share in China. Its revenues are generated by leveraging its massive user base through online advertising and services such as online games, remote technical support and system integration. The publicly traded company posted sales of $1.39 billion in 2014.

Ho understands how to make a collaborative and effective Office3. He was born in Taiwan and got his master’s degree in architectural design at University of Edinburgh. He is the founder of David Ho Design Studio and has more than 18 years experience in international architecture and interior design with projects around the world, including the U.K., China and Taiwan. WPM

This story was first published in the May 2016 issue of Workplaces Magazine.

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