LocationCovent Garden, Covent Gardens, London, Greater London WC2E 7BB, UK
PhotographsCourtesy of PENSON
From the architect. 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.
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. 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 booths in 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.
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. 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.