Google is famous for forcing perfectly respectable people to work in studiedly zany offices — themed ones, no less, whether it's gondola lifts at Google Zurich or, as we saw recently, red telephone booths at Google London. So we were pretty wary when the architecture firm Strada sent us news of its freshly completed office for Google in Pittsburgh. We expected Terrible Towels in the bathroom and faux steel mills for meeting rooms. Happily, we were wrong.
OK, but that's the hokiest thing in here. Otherwise, Strada did a good job of saying Pittsburgh without screaming it. The office fills the penthouse of a 100-year-old Nabisco factory, the history of which the architects took pains to preserve. They left its guts raw, so you've got exposed pipes and peeled paint and gashes in the walls (from the gritty, rough-and-tumble Rust Belt work of making cookies).
Beyond that, the Pittburgh motif is limited to some brick and steel finishes, like this:
And photo montages of old Pittsburgh, like this:
Of course, this being Google, the office still looks like a Google office: Note all the primary colors and the affected casualness, here in the form of a giant hammock (shown up top) and a playroom, complete with bean bags and a pool table (below). Apparently, the office serves free beef jerky, too.
Strada says it researched the hell out of employees — doing everything "from surveys and Quickfire interviews, to time-lapse photography and multiple Live-In sessions" — to develop the design scheme that would fit them best. Which leads us to conclude that Google Pittsburgh is chock full of 12-year-old boys.
In the pantheon of Google offices, though, this one counts among the more sedate and people-friendly. Google's Pittsburgh presence is key to snapping up talent from the region's universities. But if the company is going to keep people in Pittsburgh — a great city, to be sure, but no sunny Mountain View — it has to offer perks beyond killer stock options. You could do worse than a big toy of a place in an old bakery.
[Images by David Aschkenas courtesy of Strada; bottom image courtesy of Historical Society of Western PA]