Googleplex space redesign

Metropolis last issue has a very inspiring description of how New York workplace consultant DEGW and the L.A.-based design firm Clive Wilkinson Architects reexamined and redesigned the Googleplex. The article also describes how Google mix of openness and control is their office space.

Page and Brin were less interested in the aesthetics of the space than in circulation and flow (...) ...a typology of work spaces that Wilkinson's office developed. "We tried to create a whole variety of experiences," Rappaport says. After examining the ways that employees actually used their space, the architects came up with a list of 13 different zones and arranged them from hot ("clubhouse": pool table and lounge area) to cold (closed workrooms), depending on the level of interaction they encourage. Each floor of the building was divided into five or six flexible neighborhoods separated by "landmarks," the shared public spaces that are the center of Google life. There are kitchens full of snacks, lounges with pool tables and comfortable seating, and libraries of stacked plywood box shelves filled with books and games that Googlers have brought in from home and based on, Wilkinson says, "the idea of the village library as the repository of thought." On either end of the floor is a structure that looks like a cross between a tree house and a guard tower, used for meetings and offices. In the center atrium, overlooking the grand staircase, is a group of larger, more luxurious meeting rooms. Other small meeting rooms take the shape of yurts--another Wilkinson creation--which look like little padded igloos and are easily assembled or torn down.

The solution de resistance, though, is the glass tents. Page and Brin knew their engineers needed quiet to concentrate on programming, yet the company was also dedicated to packing three or four people into an office, a configuration that the cofounders liked from their Stanford grad-school days. They wanted to achieve that without resorting to an impersonal warren of cubicles or a hierarchical system of corner offices, which would have belied their mostly flat management structure. Despite the priority on concentration, face time is valued, along with the sort of serendipitous encounters that might stimulate new ideas between engineers not working closely together.

Why do I blog this? I am interested in how space (as a whole) affords, structure, reshape socio-cognitive practices and collaboration (it's one of the broad topic of my research in both physical and virtual world). The paper is very pertinent when it comes to describing the user acceptance of space design and how it evolved over time at Google.