As Google continues to expand in Chicago’s Fulton Market District, they found themselves in need of not only more workspace, but additional conferencing facilities to host technology training sessions. Without compromising the daily individual or teamwork processes, the workplace security, the uniquely-Google fit out or the deeply-rooted, Chicago-branded conceptual design direction; a significant challenge presented itself relative to accommodating the new assembly space within a working floor. The latest 60,000-square-foot project needed to feel as if it was a natural member of the building’s existing Google community.
Google’s chief objective with any project is the optimum well-being of their employees. Great care is taken to nurture the physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual parts of each Googler in order to ensure they are happy, creative and productive. Relative to design, this is a welcome challenge; it presents opportunities to analyze and reinterpret the spaces we create in order to provide the most effective environments in which the Googlers work and play.
Conceptually, Google maintains deep roots in Chicago, as each floor is tied to a specific theme that celebrates the city’s rich heritage. This project is no different, focusing on Chicago inventions within the construction, technology and entertainment genres. References to balloon framing, steel skyscraper structures, color televisions, mobile phones and amusement park roller coaster cars make their way through the floor plan, defining boundary and function of space with the appropriate level of function, whimsy and creativity.
At the core of each Google space is the micro-kitchen and working lounge, which functions as the central social hub and arrival point of the floor. The hub of the space is the organically shaped service island that houses an abundance of healthy food and drink choices, complete with a backlit laser-cut metal relief of the Ferris wheel, another Chicago invention. The variety of seating options address singular and group scenarios alike. The serpentine banquette with exposed structural framing, softly sculptured recessed niches, semi-private nooks and open collaboration areas all strike a perfect balance of productivity, respite, socializing and the bold and colorful Google brand.
The unique programmatic requirement of added conferencing space for technology training sessions presented another opportunity for design latitude. Once again referencing a Chicago benchmark, the concept of the row house was used to design and develop differently sized and placed rooms, creating a more dynamic and undulating rhythm within the space. Much like row houses, there is a uniform and cohesive design language but subtlety in each to provide some individuality. An exterior building cladding material was used in slightly different colors, textures and sizes to accomplish this, with exposed connections to reflect the industrial nature of the building and subsequent Google design language.
A second and equally spacious micro-kitchen was developed to accommodate both the large floor plate size and the overflow of the added number of Googlers within the new conferencing area. A more hospitable and lounge-like approach was taken with this space, taking advantage of exterior views to Fulton Market and incorporating more soft seating, a billiard table, and a feature wall of reclaimed wood and biophilia, bringing a soft, natural component into an urban area and industrial environment. Anchoring the space is a double-sided blue brick fireplace within a glass and black metal warehouse window wall, providing a glimpse into the intimate blues lounge beyond. Taking inspiration from the traditional Chicago blues bars of the past, comfortable sofas, areas rugs, upholstered lounge chairs and cocktail tables fill the room. Historic Chicago blues super graphics line the walls and a small bar is nestled in the corner beneath the moody industrial lighting and traditional tin ceiling.
The open office area provides almost limitless choices relative to workstyles. Located along the curtain wall to provide as much exposure to natural light as possible, all workstations are fitted with a sit-to-stand desk surface in order to foster a healthier approach to singular heads down efforts. Situated along the core of the building and conveniently located between the neighborhoods created by the workstation groups, breakout areas are designed to function as highly collaborative and energetic epicenters, defined by a steel tube open framing system with integrated acoustical panels, boldly colored carpet, decorative light fixtures and an abundant length of whiteboard. At the end of circulation paths and visual vistas are some unique and irreverent Chicago artifacts, such as restored cars from the original Riverview amusement park and a vintage shuffleboard table rescued from an old Chicago tavern. As a final Chicago touch, local graffiti artists were invited to come in and create one-of-a-kind pieces on walls lining circulation paths, providing visual relief from enclosed office space and injecting a bit of levity and interest into the Googlers’ workday.
The sum total of the design effort is a space that is holistically healthy, resourceful, educational, sustainable, optimally functional and most importantly, uniquely Google.