Google Super HQ


Google's new London headquarters by designers PENSON features Union Jack flags, balcony gardens and allotments where staff can grow vegetables (+ slideshow).

Google Super HQ by PENSON

The Google Super HQ is located in the Renzo Piano-designed Central St. Giles Building in Covent Garden and contains indoor and outdoor workplaces, a gym, a dance studio, a cafe and a 200-person event room named the "Town Hall".

Google Super HQ by PENSON

Communal areas are furnished like old-fashioned living rooms with rocking chairs, high-back armchairs and woollen pouffes.

Google Super HQ by PENSON

The outdoor workplaces are referred to as "Secret Gardens" and comprise balcony seats surrounded by hedgerows.

Google Super HQ by PENSON

Tiny lights pick out the outline of the familiar Google logo, which hangs from the ceiling above the reception desk.

Google Super HQ by PENSON

Last year PENSON also completed a London office for Google's engineers, while architects Scott Brownrigg previously designed an office for Google near Buckingham Palace.

Google Super HQ by PENSON

Photography is by David Barbour.

Google Super HQ by PENSON

Here's a project description from PENSON:

PENSON for Google at CSG Covent Garden London.

One of Europe’s leading interior design and architecture studios PENSON has delivered Google’s new super HQ at Central Saint Giles, Covent Garden, London. The 160,000sq.ft HQ covers an amazing variation of floors including the Main Reception, a Lala Library, Gymnasium, Cafés & Restaurants, a Town Hall and many other trinkets all with long reaching panoramic views of London’s skyscape. It’s simply awesome.

CSG brings Google’s sales and other departments nearer to their clients. This interior is at the opposite end of the spectrum to PENSON’s other recent release of the Google Engineering HQ at Victoria, which incidentally caused quite a stir globally for its visual affair with the “Space Odyssey’s” and “Starship Enterprise’s” of this world. CSG is a hybrid version of a London Townhouse, with things like woolly living rooms or granny flat floors with roof top gardens at its pinnacle.

Google Super HQ by PENSON

Through very shrewd change management and PENSON’s strategic workplace ethos, highly commercial headcount statistics have been achieved. There are 1250 desks & 1250 meeting chairs or collaboration seats, within a floor area that is no different to any other. Whilst walking through PENSON’s workplace inventions such as Secret Gardens, Allotments, Google Green, Google Park & Grannies Flat, you realise that these shrewd commercials are beautifully disguised. Effectively PENSON has developed a master-piece of cohesion between visual fun, unique un-themed concepts and commercialism that other organisations should look at very closely indeed.

The next touch of genius is that this scheme hasn’t involved a massive spend since intelligent use of materials and the excellent use of space contributes heavily towards the overall impact. This approach, combined with special touches of prioritised spending such as the bespoke submarine type “noise-tight” doors with “Do Not Turn to Open”, bring a big splash of light-hearted quirkiness.

Google Super HQ by PENSON

The space is “eco-massive” too. It is a few pegs short of LEED Platinum. It uses a very high content of reclaimed or recycled materials to great effect and complies with Google’s own Red List, which is highly tuned towards removing all of the nasty ingredients in materials through the use of many water based products. The space even smells healthy. Timber floor boards, with Eco plywood perimeters and tooth converging floor finishes together will age with time, which is another shrewd aspect showing that PENSON has specified the space to improve with age and use to develop its own patina.

The allotments are something that we’ve not heard of before in offices. Well, especially on a ninth floor level. However these are little mini tubs, made from certified IPE timber which will age from a deep rich colour to a silvery maintenance free finish in time. Googlers have put their name onto a waiting list to get their allotment. Rules are rules, so if someone doesn’t maintain their allotment they will be removed and the next person on the waiting list gets their chance. Its brilliant using root vegetables and herbs as a past-time at work whilst aiding internal collaboration. Who will win this year’s largest marrow contest we wonder?

The Secret Gardens are also amazing. These are little private boothsin a sun trapped balcony space, which create a special looking, yet densely seated area for those commercials. The booths seat one to four Googlers with a real box hedge wall to create privacy and to act as a wind/sun shield. Googlers will be competing to work in this space on their laptops on Google’s wireless.

Google Super HQ by PENSON

The Secret Gardens are accessed from the main café space through little concealed garden gates. They also connect with Google Park, which is a huge garden area also on a sun-trapped balcony. The café again looks non-commercial; it sucks in sky blue from above via water based paint to ceilings, draws in light and fun atmospheres from the park outside. It adopts a kind of “granny flat” retro, come dated feel which is surrounded by real hedge against the backdrop of London. It’s a fantastic space.

Of course the journey continues. The Google Green is an interior space which looks out across the Secret Gardens and joins the café, Town hall and small desking area. This space is flexible, as it can be used for “All Hands” meetings, one-to-one slouching in cool Moroso couches, or can be used to entertain large groups of Town Hall guests whilst on their lunch or coffee breaks. Flexibility is also something that this space reveals across the board.

The Town hall has a capacity to showcase two hundred guests in a fully velvet curtained hall, with open exposed ceilings, a massive Video Wall, amazing acoustics and hi-fi capabilities. This space has been placed in the heart of the floor connecting to the Main Reception with a gallery of artwork and trinkets. Glittery walls splashing huge Union Jacks also help to celebrate the UK whilst adding an economical finish that looks amazing whilst being water based.

Google Super HQ by PENSON

The Gymnasium has some of the best views across to the south, and provides very quirky shower, change and massage facilities, with a cool Bikedry which provides hanging space for bike gear to air and dry for one’s return commute. This invention has also proved highly popular. A dance studio not only assists in flexibility but also in Googlers health and fitness at work. The shower block is painted in an incredible illuminous orange paint that whacks you with a slap of energy.

So all in all how can you describe this space? No one has yet come up with a single word that sums it up fairly. Actually very few people can even begin to think of any potential words since it is such a mixture of eclectic ideas, touches of magic, personalisation and design based around how humans can work. How do we even begin to label a space that has a reclaimed Jet Fighter ejection seat at one end and Secret Gardens at the other?

Lee Penson founder of PENSON says “it’s 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 its all about as HQ. Think efficient spaces for efficient Googlers wrapped up into a commercial property solution that ticks all of the fun & practical boxes. Its commercialism is there for all organisations to see that the Google stereotype is not in throwing money at it, it’s about designing your heart out with a “normalish budget”.

Google Super HQ by PENSON

Client: Google
Interior Designer: PENSON
Contractor: Parkeray
Project Managers: CBRE

Bespoke Joinery: ADS Joinery
Lighting: Fisherman Light, Zero Fork Light, Nick Fraser Trash me Table Lamp, Victor Vetterlein
Flooring: Chroma, Object Carpets, Naturally Wood, Domus Tiles, Gerflor
Furniture: Bene, Day 2, Tsunami-axis, Moroso
Finishes/Fabrics: Kvadrat, Jab Fabrics
Feature Wall Tiles: Fired Earth
Signage: Castleton Signs

  • Daniel

    Who makes the lighting in the last picture?

  • zeeman

    Slavoj Zizek summed this up.

    Your boss is not your friend. This is just a gimmick to make you feel like your corporate boss is your friend. You can move in and never leave.

    Who actually believes this junk works. What a gimmick. Dreamed up by corporate architects and workplace consultants. Fascist.

    • efs

      Ouch! I think the architects and inferior, sorry, interior architects did a fine job here. They probably work in exposed-brick-lofty-vintage-mis-match and tried to imbue some of that here for Google’s desk-flesh.

      • Novalinnhe

        What was the need for the “inferior” architect comment? We don’t need things like that in this field of work. We’re designing buildings created to host scores of human life for decades at a time, and every single job is as important as any other.

        In fact, without the “inferior” jobs of which you speak – the bricklayers, the electricians, the plumbers, the technologists – architecture would not exist. So give them some respect.

  • Ema

    It’s like a boring video game.

  • Doesn’t it all look so lost – what are Google trying to be here? A cafe? An astroturf pitch? A Virgin Active?

    You wonder if they had any input at all in the vision behind the project. But stop and think for a second, you’re meant to lose yourself in the maelstrom of kitsch. Its contrived eclecticism is precisely the sort of disarming design that acts as political cover, innocence as a visual barrier, design as PR.

    It’s a well trodden road amongst all these nouveau riche mega-corps run by twenty-somethings. Ultimately this is pure propaganda – design as deception – look we’re Google, cute, fluffy and fun – you can trust us with all your personal information because we’re just a down to earth kooky crew. No way, don’t be deceived by some cheap tat and bright colours. Sinister.

    I’ll second the person who said this was fascistic.

    • efs

      I like my workplace to be 9-5, bright fluorescent, dark leather, short skirts, tinned meat, Scotch, cigarettes and man-sweat.

      • Novalinnhe

        So you're from the 1970s then?

  • Beth

    terrapol – Google is not run by twenty-somethings.
    zeeman – it definitely works. Would you rather sit in a lively, engaging space all day or a cubicle?

    Why so angry both of you? Would you prefer a company DIDN’T try to create a nice space for their employees? Which is more likely, your insane conspiracy theories or working as a team in London for a nice space, and a better 9-5?

    • a Better Designer

      Unfortunately it’s not a nice space. It’s just another eclectic mess dreamed up by the Penson group who really need to try some real design that lasts and everyone loves.

      It’s a shame that we are expected to work long hours – what’s wrong with wanting to only work 9 – 5 like normal people?

  • vertigo66

    Please show us where the 1250 desks are. I predict cramped, poor natural light, bad acoustics, etc. etc. C’mon Penson, show us the ‘real’ workplace not just the sexy brothel bits. I dare you.

    In fact every article about offices should be required to show the open plan office space.

  • David Frost

    Its amazing how a great space like this gets really fantastic feedback on FB, in fact, 586,866 “like” votes only 24 hours after it was published by people that have the courage to reveal their identities.

    I work in a nationwide legal firm and we love Google’s new offices. Its good to see something different. We think its very cool indeed. The angry ones naturally don’t have enough work on as designers in their own right. My advice is, try Google’s Padded Cell. It’s brilliant.

    • Novalinnhe

      Although I don’t agree, your comment is the most down to earth and balanced on this page, so props to you sir :) I personally don’t like the Google offices, because there seems to be a new scheme/inspiration/idea to every room as you walk through it… it appears to be more of an exercise in ‘kitsch’ than a fluid and coherent design scheme.

      However to be honest, how much can any of us really say? I doubt there is a single person on this page who has actually seen the office in real life. Until that happens, I suppose we are judging an architecture firm’s labour of love in four or five photographs. Perhaps real life walkthroughs for us virtual voyeurs are the way forward.

  • Pherz

    Google is seeming more and more like a megalithic McDonalds for factory-ised CS students to join and feel like they’ve made it, yet they never grow up or are stuck in some kind of gym/dance club/Ikea-esque circus where the next applied semantics can emerge from.

    I’m sorry, I just don’t buy it and am unimpressed with the tacky sell-out values it espouses in computer engineers and scientists. If, in the future, you want all your data and services to come from a fast-food-like company then invest in Google!