EMEA Eng Hub
Amazingly inspiring new work environment for Google
Google Switzerland GmbH
Floor Area: 12`000 m2
Completion: March 2008
- Strategic Project Management
- Construction Management
- Research & Brief Development
- Full Architectural Services
- Workplace Design
Google is not a conventional company, and does not intend to become one. This is readily apparent in their new offices for Google’s EMEA Engineering Hub in Zurich, Switzerland, where the design cultivates an energized and inspiring work environment that is relaxed but focused, and buzzing with activities.
Google emphasises the importance of the individual and maintaining a small-company ambience throughout company growth.
A key element in the design approach was that the Googlers in Zurich (fondly referred to as Zooglers) should participate in the design process to create their own local identity. Under the guidance of the Director of International Real Estate at Google in Mountain View, an interactive and transparent approach to the architectural process was implemented from the beginning. A diverse team of local Zooglers were formed as the steering committee to represent the entire office. This committee reviewed, challenged and approved the design throughout the project. This unique method of engagement provided open collaboration, unique perspectives and ideas, and supplied a direct sense of ownership throughout the Zurich office. To this end Camenzind Evolution was neither given a specific brief nor a corporate identity manual and was explicitly asked not to research the organisation and design of other Google offices.
The architects began with a rapid process of research and analysis to map out the opportunities and challenges posed by the building as well as the emotional and practical requirements of the Zooglers. The latter was achieved by conducting a survey of all the Zooglers, complemented by a series of workshops and interviews. This research, guided by a psychologist, extended beyond purely functional aspects, and provided information about the Zooglers personality types, representational systems, values and motivational factors.
Although the details of the survey outcomes remain confidential, the process revealed that the optimal working environment for Zooglers needed to be diverse and at the same time harmonious whilst making it a fun and an enjoyable place to work in. The survey also showed that while personal workspace needed to be functional and more neutral, communal areas had to offer strong visual and more aesthetically enjoyable and entertaining qualities to stimulate creativity, innovation and collaboration.
The concept of the communal areas relates directly to the project research conclusions and wider research that indicates relaxation to be crucial to innovation and stimulating original thought. Work and play are not mutually exclusive, or as Google puts it “it is possible to code and pass the puck at the same time”.
The diversity of the communal areas provides a great choice of distinctive emotional and visual experiences and activities. These ensure that there is a suitably relaxing or inspiring environment for the individual needs of the more than 50 nationalities represented in the Zurich office. The communal areas are intentionally dispersed throughout the building to encourage Zooglers to circulate throughout the seven floors to enhance communication between the different working groups and teams.
The new Google EMEA Engineering Hub in Zurich is about functionality and flexibility in the personal workspace and choice and diversity in the community areas, creating an environment that holistically supports the Zooglers in their work and well-being. The research undertaken by the architects ensured their efforts were sharply focused on aspects of the environment that mattered most to the Zooglers in their working lives. The completed Google building is a true reflection of a forward-thinking company that was prepared to adopt innovative approaches proposed by the architectural team to determine the optimal design concept to nurture the talent and creativity of their Zurich employees.