Following on from our recent look at the Apple ‘Spaceship Campus’ we thought you might like a peek around the Google Campus which opened in Shoreditch last year. The space is intended as a shared workspace for start-up companies in an area of London known for its high concentration of tech companies, known as the ‘Silicon Roundabout’.
The seven storey building features a series of flexible open-plan workspaces and lockers – providing hot desks and informal meeting rooms with small kitchenettes, located inside shipping containers within the building. Reclaimed materials such as fruit crates provide shelving and at ground level the reception desk is adorned with Duplo bricks – in acknowledgement of Google’s founders who have a special fondness for Lego – in an otherwise unbranded environment. On the ground floor, versatile meeting spaces can be transformed into different configurations using industrial-style red shutters to create presentation rooms which can be further sub-divided into smaller rooms as required. Below this, on the lower ground floor, a café and co-working facilities are available for non-residents who want to use the space.
The primary function of the Campus is to provide office space for start-up companies and the facilities also host regular events such as talks from leading technology and entrepreneurship experts and networking meetings. Google staff also frequent the offices to offer mentoring and share their experience and skills with residents.
The challenge for the architects and interior design team working on this project was to take an uninviting seven-storey office building and transform it into something vibrant and dynamic containing both open, social spaces and intimate working hubs – with the physical flexibility to host a shifting workforce with diverse needs and a varied program of events.
Much of the architectural focus was on opening up and connecting the ground and lower ground floors so that they were able to accommodate a series of social spaces – including the reception area plus informal meeting areas, the café and workshop spaces. The total floor area of the building is around 2,300 m² with 200 desk spaces, 16 meeting rooms and 2 event spaces with a capacity for 130 and 75 people, respectively.
The overall look and feel of the building reflects the type of business being conducted by it’s occupants: it is anti-corporate – focussed instead on young tech start-ups who are just embarking on their careers, as opposed to established, more traditional-style companies. The designers have stripped the building to its core, exposing the naked concrete and revealing the structure of ceiling slabs and columns. This, combined with the use of low-tech utilitarian and inexpensive materials like plywood alongside the perennial favourite of fashionable design and flexible working spaces – shipping containers – create a raw aesthetic and an environment focused on social interaction, diversity and practical flexibility.
The main working areas, which occupy the upper five floors of the building, are all open plan. The shipping containers dotted around on each floor separate circulation from the main office floor, providing multiple functions including space for private meetings and refreshments – featuring recycling stations, video conferencing suites, meeting booths and micro kitchens. The containers also contain soft seating areas and upholstered ‘nooks’ which offer respite from the hustle and bustle of the main working areas. The remaining wall space in the containers are covered with neutral grey fabric panels which improve the acoustics whilst also providing a space to pin notices.
Downstairs on the lower ground floor, the café design uses the same materials that have been used throughout the building in a continuation of the design theme. The coffee bar itself is situated in a kiosk at the centre of the room, dividing the space into two separate zones. In the rear half, bespoke upholstered banquet seating and small benches made from oiled plywood are dominated by a large mural by graphic artist Luke Embden. Towards the front, there is a large workbench offering opportunities for informal seminars and workshops. Behind a wooden warehouse door, the pipe room offers a more intimate atmosphere to brainstorm new business ideas or relax after lunch.