Photography by David Barbour
With a name that has become synonymous with innovation and an omniscient presence that is neither rivaled nor questioned, Google is undoubtedly a leader in all things technology. So does Google lead the charge in contemporary workspace design--you know the type, comfy lounge chairs, micro-environments, arcade machines that all dial up the "adolescence" we're all ostensibly pining after (see, for example, the company's EMEA Engineering Hub in Zurich). The search giant's newest station, the Engineering HQ at Victoria, London, is its third in the city.
Designed by PENSON, which also produced the '60s-futuristic design for Google's second London offices, the newest workspace delivers a drastically different, emphatically "English" experience.
Located at Central Saint Giles in Convent Garden, the HQ spans 160,000 square-feet and contains a main reception hall,a library, a gymnasium, cafes & restaurants, and even a 200 person event room, called, of course, the "Town Hall". PENSON equipped the space with 1250 desks and as many chairs, each arranged in seemingly haphazard clusters that never stray to far from that all-too-British organizing principle of tidiness. The mix of "familiar" materials and furniture, like rocking chairs, tweed-lined cocoons, and leather sofas, wouldn't be out of place in an English townhouse; here Union Jacks proliferate, as do woolly living rooms and even clandestine rooftop gardens (in lieu of the sequestered backyard garden).
The "Secret Gardens", which provide seating areas for small groups enclosed by hedge boxes, can be accessed through the main café space. Allotment gardens arrayed along the 9th floor terrace allow staff to grow their own produce, an activity that has developed a competitive edge with employees vying for the title of biggest yield. The café also connects to the large sun-trapped balcony known as Google Park and shares views of Google Green, the Gymnasium, the Town Hall and other small collaborative desk areas. Lee Penson founder of PENSON says the design is "all about human beings and that’s it! Think sunken snugs, comfort, fun, comfy slippers, squishy carpets, cushions, daybeds, nice fresh food, gardening, vegetables, health, visual stimulation, relaxation, exercise, fresh air & you’ll get what it’s all about at HQ."