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With new headquarters, company goes the extra ‘Aka-Mile’ to connect its employees

Akamai’s headquarters incorporates features like this mosiac made of old keyboard keys by the artist Erik Jensen.
Akamai’s headquarters incorporates features like this mosiac made of old keyboard keys by the artist Erik Jensen.Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff/Globe staff

CAMBRIDGE — Lots of companies these days are trying to put all their employees under one roof. Akamai is taking that one step further and putting them all along one long hallway.

That’s the idea behind the “Aka-Mile,” the 1-mile pathway that winds through 19 floors of the new headquarters building the technology company is opening Friday in Kendall Square.

From the front door on Broadway to the top-floor cafeteria with big views of the Charles River and downtown, the Aka-Mile aims to serve as a sort of central spine for a company that has long been spread across several buildings in Kendall Square.

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“We want everyone to connect,” said Anthony Williams, the vice president of global talent acquisition and diversity. “As we’ve become a larger company, it has become harder to do that. We have to really work to create opportunities for collaboration.”

To make that happen, over the next few weekends the company, which manages a huge chunk of the traffic on the Internet, will move about 1,850 employees from four buildings into one 480,000-square-foot space on the corner of Broadway and Galileo Way. The building, developed by Boston Properties and designed by Connecticut-based Pickard Chilton, has been leased by Akamai for 15 years. At 19 stories, it’s the kind of place where it would be easy to walk in, take the elevator to the 15th floor, and never see your coworkers down on 5.

Akamai’s new headquarters in Kendall Square is the latest example of a company trying to put all of its people under one roof, in part to foster collaboration.
Akamai’s new headquarters in Kendall Square is the latest example of a company trying to put all of its people under one roof, in part to foster collaboration.Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff/Globe staff

To combat that, Akamai and its design team from Sasaki decided to thread casual gathering spaces throughout the entire building.

“If you want to, you can walk the whole thing,” said Victor Vizgaitis, a principal at Sasaki. “And all the social spaces, the collaborative spaces, the meeting spaces — anyplace where you’d bump into another human being — they’re all along that thread.”

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To be fair, there are spots where the Aka-Mile is just a flight of fire stairs enclosed in cinderblock. But there are other areas where it’s about game rooms, a barista-staffed coffee bar, and broad staircases that can double as all-hands meeting space. The Aka-Mile is distinguished by brighter colors, cleaner lines, and distinctive architectural flourishes, so you know you’re there.

A staircase that also offers stadium seating at Akamai's new headquarters in Kendall Square.
A staircase that also offers stadium seating at Akamai's new headquarters in Kendall Square. Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff/Globe staff

“You’ll basically be able to follow the finishes,” said Brian Murray, Akamai’s senior director of global facilities.

Having such attractive hang spaces sends another message. The rest of the place — the work space — is actually for working.

Unlike the vast bullpens common to open-office floor plans, Akamai’s desks are set up in relatively small pods, some for just 12 or 15 people, with shoulder-high cubicles to minimize the distractions. That’s important at a company full of coders and engineers, Vizgaitis said.

“So much of what they do is about deeply focused work,” he said. “We tried to design an environment where they could focus. That was really important.”

A corner gathering space with floor-to-ceiling windows.
A corner gathering space with floor-to-ceiling windows.Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff/Globe staff

But when it’s time for a break, employees have places to go. Along with the main cafeteria, which occupies the top two stories, there are smaller kitchens on every few floors — the better to encourage chance interactions.

There are about 350 meeting rooms, Murray said, and quiet places to work away from a desk, like the library on the 11th floor.

But mostly, said Vizgaitis and the Akamai executives who led the project, there’s a sense of place and community for a company that has grown to be one of the region’s biggest tech firms, and a major gatekeeper for the Internet.

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“Connectivity is really our mantra for the entire building,” Williams said. “To connect the world, we must first connect with each other.”

A room to play video games at Akamai's new headquarters.
A room to play video games at Akamai's new headquarters.Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff/Globe staff

Tim Logan can be reached at tim.logan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @bytimlogan.