Interior view of Google’s Zürich office, designed by Evolution Design. Photo by Peter Wurmli. Courtesy of Evolution Design.
For innovative startups and established brands alike, a row of cubicles and a drip coffee machine are no longer satisfactory tools for a generative work sphere. To keep up with the speed of modern development, more and more companies today are tapping the expertise of architects and designers to develop bespoke offices that foster productivity, innovation, and creativity.
One of the first firms to bring a creative and playful approach to office spaces was Evolution Design. Around 10 years ago, the company had never worked on such projects, until Google Zurich approached the firm with an idea for an office that specifically caters to the needs of its employees. “Google was one of the companies who realized that if they wanted to keep up, then they would have to change the way people work,” Evolution Design’s creative director, Tanya Ruegg, told Artsy. “Because if people are sitting at their desks all day long, there will be no innovation.”
Evolution Design’s solution to Google’s unique request required an equally individual approach. The designers began interviewing Google employees and found that many of them are, as Ruegg suggested, “kids––like big kids.” To better support Googlers’ playful nature, the firm decided to include recreational areas like a room for video games, an aquarium with napping pods, and space for athletics, as well as a range of unconventional workspaces.
Some critics called the building childish, but for Google’s team, it fit the bill. “These types of people really need these extraordinary elements in order to keep them creative and motivated for work,” Ruegg explained.
Google Zurich’s individual style shows that there isn’t one creative approach to office design. Every workplace has particular needs, and a truly creative office employs design that is inspired by its employees, while helping to keep them inspired. Below, we share the stories behind six other creative offices with individualized approaches to the workplace.
San Francisco, California
Interior view of Autodesk’s office in San Francisco. Courtesy of Autodesk.
San Francisco is home to a plethora of technology companies, but Autodesk’s Silicon Valley location stands out from the pack with its uncommon furniture. In one meeting space at the software company’s office, employees gather around a table that is suspended from the ceiling, and “treadmill desks” are sprinkled throughout the office.
“We’ve found that being active at work helps our employees maintain good health and wellness, and it’s a perk that being in motion and recharging increases productivity,” said Jenny Lum, Autodesk’s manager of facilities. “They’re ergonomic, get employees in motion, and allow people not to sit at their desks all day.” Lum says that the office often installs two treadmills side by side, so that employees can have a meeting and exercise at the same time.
Interior view of Rover’s office in Seattle. Courtesy of Rover.
For many dog parents, saying goodbye to your pup in the morning can be an emotionally draining experience. But employees at Rover never have to hear their beloved pet whimper at the door, because every day is “bring your pet to work” day.
This dog-walking and pet-sitting service, which is “founded on the belief that everyone should have the opportunity to experience the unconditional love of a dog,” believes that incorporating pets into the office helps promote a collaborative and less-stressful working environment. The office is outfitted with pens that allow employees to keep their dogs near their desks, and an outdoor grassy area for pet relief.
As Rover’s Jovana Teodorovic told Artsy, “Between our personal dogs and Rover dogs that employees are sitting, we often have more than 50 dogs in the office on a given day.” (The dog-to-employee ratio is roughly one to six.)
This Seattle-based company is so in love with dogs that it even offers new employees up to $1,000 to help them adopt a dog, and frequently includes pups in team members’ headshots. You can read about some of the office’s dogs on its blog, Daily Treat.
Brooklyn, New York
Housed in an old pencil factory, Kickstarter’s New York office includes a vast array of spaces, such as a theater, library, gallery, and rooftop garden. The company was founded in 2009 and focuses on helping artists, musicians, and filmmakers connect with financial backers. So, when planning its Brooklyn building with the architecture firm Ole Sondresen, it was of utmost importance that the company create a multi-functional space that could aid its entire community, as well as its employees.
“There are spaces that might seem extravagant if they were just for the employees, but if you think about it as more of a community space, then it makes more sense,” David Gallagher, Kickstarter’s director of communications, told Artsy. For example, he noted, many filmmakers have a hard time finding a space to screen their work. “So, we’ve invited folks in to use our theater.”
One highlight of Kickstarter’s space is its inspiring use of greenery. Light washes into the office from a central courtyard, which can be viewed through large glass windows. The flowering enclosure offers employees and visitors sights like a fern grove, butterflies, and a rain chain. On top of this, the rooftop flourishes with trees and a communal garden––ripe with peppers, vegetables, and fruit. “It’s a place that you can go and hide out in trees and forget that you even are in New York City,” Gallagher said.
New York, New York
Installation view of work by Shantell Martin in Viacom’s New York City office. Photo by Roy Rochlin. Courtesy of the artist.
The umbrella company Viacom is home to multiple media networks, including MTV, BET, Comedy Central, and Nickelodeon. So when the company’s office managers decided to transform its 7th floor into a wellness center––complete with a cafeteria, print lounge, and exercise facility––they took it as an opportunity to add art to the space. They commissioned the artist Shantell Martin to create a scrolling mural that wraps around the space.
What would have been normal halls and doorways are now enlivened with creatures, landscapes, and phrases drawn in the artist’s signature stream-of-consciousness style. Phrases—such as “open the door ask for more” beside a door’s handle, and “one day, some day, today, we can, we will” scrawled across a wall—offer employees a chance to internally reflect amongst the hustle and bustle of everyday life. As Martin said in an interview about the space, “It’s all about wellness and community and experience. And that’s what my work is about: creating an experience, a connection.”
While designing Microsoft’s Milan office, Italian architect DEGW incorporated the company’s collaborative nature into its designs by personalizing communal spaces with varying sound equipment and decor. “Floors differ from each other in terms of layout and aesthetics in accordance with functions and requirements,” content manager Valentina Locatelli told Artsy. “Certain areas are more communicative and others more private to create a workspace that is not monotonous and encourages creativity and interaction.”
For example, in order to meet employees’ need for collaboration and brainstorming spaces, DEGW envisioned “creative gardens,” which are semi-private wooden structures that include high-performance acoustics. Their exteriors are often embellished with plants, making them recognizable and inviting spaces in the office.
At LEGO’s Denmark office, imaginative design runs rampant through its sunny and playful workspaces. From the silver slide winding through the open-plan space to bursts of bright color, designer Rosan Bosch created a work environment saturated in the possibilities of play.
“In order to create a design that matches the creative development process in the department, the imagination was given free rein,” said the creative art and design studio in a statement. “The purpose of LEGO is not only to make fun designs for others to enjoy––at LEGO, work too is supposed to be fun.”
A major way the design team achieved this goal was through its use of scale. A mural depicts blades of green grass that nearly touch the ceiling with a giant-sized LEGO figure walking through the foliage. Tables with tiny bonsai gardens serve as workstations, and oversized furniture pieces punctuate the office––one standout piece is the powder blue couch that extends into a cloud-like form and functions as a walkway and entrance to the slide.