The Google office aesthetic
Just as the Google search engine is geographically localised, so too are the company’s regional outposts. Uniting local heritage and the bold, primary-coloured Google aesthetic, the quirky Amsterdam office has been designed to reflect and complement the company’s unique working culture. The world’s most popular search engine may have started life in a California garage (as did fellow multi-million-dollar companies Disney, Amazon, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard and, famously, Apple), but it was with Google’s first campus in Mountain View that a distinctly ‘Google’ office aesthetic was born. Sprawling and sunny, Google Mountain View (aka the Googleplex) is a kind of parallel-universe Stanford University – where, incidentally, founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin first met. In the London office, meanwhile, walls are plastered in Union Jacks and curvy velvet Chesterfields line the relaxation areas, while the corridors of the New York office come complete with subway grates and fire hydrants.
In Amsterdam, you know from the minute you reach the reception desk – which is fashioned to look like a Dutch carrier bike – that this is not your average workspace. This playful office aesthetic may be common in the creative industries today, but back in the early noughties, Google was one of the first multinationals to recognise – and, crucially, to act upon – the fact that a company’s performance can be directly linked to how happy people are in the workplace. Google’s quirky offices – full of ‘huddle rooms’ to encourage collaboration, recreational facilities and dedicated meditation areas – not only support the company’s image but also probably contribute to its success.
In Amsterdam, architecture bureau D/DOCK was charged with redesigning the company’s offices in the south of the city. They took as their inspiration the garage where Page and Brin began Google, daubing walls with graffiti, hanging cardboard box lights from the exposed ceilings and adding in a healthy dose of Dutch heritage. The whimsy continues – stroopwafels hang from the canteen ceiling and a meeting room comes in the guise of a vintage caravan – but meets functionality in the desk bikes, where Googlers can exercise muscle and brain simultaneously.
But behind the wit, ergonomics and sustainability were paramount to the redesign. D/DOCK exclusively used non-toxic materials and designed the space with a focus on minimising energy and water consumption, up-cycling old fittings and furniture wherever possible. Huddled around a central hub of meeting rooms, micro-kitchens and video booths, every workstation is adjacent to a window, so natural light is guaranteed – not to mention 180-degree city views. Coen van Dijck, partner at D/DOCK, explains the theory: ‘It is a place that makes the employee perform better by offering a work environment that meets their needs. Happiness, comfort, flexibility, relaxation, wellbalanced nutrition, exercise, daylight, fresh air and visual stimulation are some of the fundamentals that make this office a healthy one.’
Not only healthy, but also productive, as research carried out by the University of Exeter, UK, into the psychological effects of design-led workplaces, confirms. “Not only does office design determine whether people’s backs ache, it has the potential to affect how much they accomplish, how much initiative they take and their overall professional satisfaction,” says researcher Professor Alex Hassam.
According to a spokesperson, Google aims “to create the happiest, most productive workplace in the world.” Given that they’re consistently named among the world’s best companies to work for, it seems they’re close to achieving that aim, and the addition of an office in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area is facilitating this.
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