Google’s Quirky New London HQ: Fit For Mr. Bean

Google has opened their third London office, and it’s filled with frumpy British tropes redone with modernist zazz.

Google office-watching has become something of a pastime on the Internet. The search giant is known for its playful, unconventional workspaces—perhaps intended to offset its fairly Vader-esque public image, and certainly, to sweeten the deal for young, in-demand engineers who may be juggling other offers. In Pittsburgh, Googlers enjoy an industrial theme and slides. In Zurich, it’s birch trees and meeting cocoons. Meanwhile, in London, Google has two established offices—one is industrial chic, the other, a space-age white box. Now, a third office—a "Super HQ"—has opened on the eighth floor of Central Saint Giles, the Renzo Piano-designed tower in Covent Garden.

When Tim Maly wrote about Google’s second London location last year, he called it a "giddy exercise in science fiction," full of slick white details and retro-futuristic furniture. If Stanley Kubrick was the patron saint of that office, Mr. Bean must be the mascot of the new HQ. Both were designed by Penson Architects, who have turned the new 160,0000-square-foot office space into a Anglophilic vision, complete with Union Jack pillows and cozy grandfather rockers. Wood paneling, pillowed leather upholstery, and a velvet-curtained town hall reinforce the theme.

Programmatically, the massive space is divided up into a few distinct types. Penson calls the cafe a "granny flat" for its cozy, all-wood look—surrounded by a growing hedge. A long terrace has been converted into an allotment garden, where each Google employee will be able to cultivate their own crops. Anyone who lets their tub go to seed gets kicked off the list, and the next name moves up to take over. Leather and tweed-clad meeting pods hold smaller gatherings, and a gym, dance studio, and a bike dryer round out the amenities.

"It’s all about human beings and that’s it!" writes principal Lee Penson. "The Google stereotype is not in throwing money at it, it’s about designing your heart out with a ‘normalish budget.'" Good timing!

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  • Austin Powers

    Is Google trying to encourage orgies at work? All of these spaces are really kinky . . .

  • Simon Field

    It looks like a tacky hotel at best, Mr Bean has far better taste.

    And I so can't believe that everybody at Google does their best work reclining on the chez-lounge or cradling their MacBook in their lap on the sofa, does nobody put their hand up and say "hey guys, I'd really like just a desk to work on and perhaps a mug to put my pens in."?

  • Not a Fan

    It's odd that they have the Union Jack pasted on the walls. I'm American, and I'd rather not see the Stars and Stripes in my office. I know I'm in the US; I don't need tacky wall graphics to remind me.

  • stopthemadness

    To everyone who responded to "Not a Fan:"  Calm the hell down.  People are entitled to their opinions, and your hating and judging someone (a fellow American, I'd remind you) who simply doesn't want political paraphernalia in their work space makes you as bad as your so-called "America haters."  Learn some tolerance of other viewpoints. 

  • Jeff

    Give me a break.  A bunch of people found a nation upon principles that are inspiring and logical and breathtaking in their beauty, then millions of people dream big and build a magnificent nation, the most inspiring in all of human history, and your pathetic sensibilities don't want to be reminded of the gift bequeathed to you?  You are a sad person.  I am sure you are liberal as all hell and the world is largely as you would have it (massive, unprecedented social expenditures, unprecedented open immigration, gigantic environmental restrictions), but you are neither satisfied with results of your policies and wishes, nor contrite enough to realize that more of the same is not going to rectify the problems that you notice.  Instead, maybe you should consider how you are nothing compared to Washington or Jefferson and take peace and solace in the fact that you don't live in some third-world hell hole. 

  • Steel Bands

    Amazing! They could hire some suites for private parties, there would be lots of interest.

  • Steven Leighton

     Yep ..nothing run down beanish about it -- they meant Austin Powers.