How Google’s lobbies are designed, from the drawing board to execution

Every picture tells a story—and so does every lobby at Google’s worldwide offices. Visually arresting and community inspired, these pivotal spaces serve as a welcome mat for visitors and a barometer of Google’s boundless ingenuity. From conception to execution, it’s all orchestrated by an interdisciplinary team within Google’s Real Estate & Workplace Services (REWS) that’s filled with people dedicated to marrying creative vision with an underlying sense of impactful pragmatism.

Regional REWS teams oversee construction workers, architects, and contractors, while remaining on schedule and within budget. No matter the location, every lobby must meet two criteria: The design must capture Google’s “look” and reflect its local culture. If someone were to pop into a random lobby, “they should be able to know what city they’re in and that it’s a Google office,” says Jason, of the EMEA Real Estate Project team.

Like snowflakes, no two lobbies are the same. “If you had just one architect for all of our global spaces, you’d miss the local and cultural nuances,” explains Jason. To gather crucial intel, the REWS teams collaborate with area designers and artists, as well as Googlers.

For visitors, each office’s lobby imparts a first impression of Google. “There’s often a bit of mystique surrounding our physical locations,” says Frans, a facilities manager. “But it’s also important that guests feel at ease.”

Once past the Google doors, how does REWS’ vision come to life?

In Johannesburg, the team embraced South Africa’s cultural diversity, constructing wallpaper from stacks of magazines in English, Afrikaans and Zulu. A sparkly “Howzit” sign, suspended from the ceiling, lends local cheer. (For the uninitiated, it’s an informal greeting.)

In Sydney’s LEED gold-certified lobby, an audio-video wall streams images of everything from the underwater Google Street View of the Great Barrier Reef to an aerial view of the office. To put job candidates at ease, the layout offers adjacent interview rooms, plus a front desk that places the receptionist at a lower, more welcoming level.

In New York City, interviewees are also front of mind. During a redesign of the 9th Avenue lobby, the team found that anxious job candidates rarely sink back into cushy chairs, so they used more formal seating. Design-wise, a colorful milk crate wall gives a nod to the company’s beginnings, when founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin used milk crates to stack their paraphernalia in the garage—a fun surprise when the elevator doors open.

The lobby in London’s Belgrave House, designed to resemble a posh British gentlemen’s club, is infused with wit and whimsy, with flocked wallpaper, a pinstripe pillar, ornate images of the queen, and bowler hats that double as light fixtures. “The idea was to make it the absolute antithesis of engineers’ typical style,” says Jane, a facilities manager. It’s this kind of creative vision that keeps Google at the forefront of modern workplace design.

How Google’s lobbies are designed, from the drawing board to execution

Every picture tells a story—and so does every lobby at Google’s worldwide offices. Visually arresting and community inspired, these pivotal spaces serve as a welcome mat for visitors and a barometer of Google’s boundless ingenuity. From conception to execution, it’s all orchestrated by an interdisciplinary team within Google’s Real Estate & Workplace Services (REWS) that’s filled with people dedicated to marrying creative vision with an underlying sense of impactful pragmatism.

Regional REWS teams oversee construction workers, architects, and contractors, while remaining on schedule and within budget. No matter the location, every lobby must meet two criteria: The design must capture Google’s “look” and reflect its local culture. If someone were to pop into a random lobby, “they should be able to know what city they’re in and that it’s a Google office,” says Jason, of the EMEA Real Estate Project team.

Like snowflakes, no two lobbies are the same. “If you had just one architect for all of our global spaces, you’d miss the local and cultural nuances,” explains Jason. To gather crucial intel, the REWS teams collaborate with area designers and artists, as well as Googlers.

For visitors, each office’s lobby imparts a first impression of Google. “There’s often a bit of mystique surrounding our physical locations,” says Frans, a facilities manager. “But it’s also important that guests feel at ease.”

Once past the Google doors, how does REWS’ vision come to life?

In Johannesburg, the team embraced South Africa’s cultural diversity, constructing wallpaper from stacks of magazines in English, Afrikaans and Zulu. A sparkly “Howzit” sign, suspended from the ceiling, lends local cheer. (For the uninitiated, it’s an informal greeting.)

In Sydney’s LEED gold-certified lobby, an audio-video wall streams images of everything from the underwater Google Street View of the Great Barrier Reef to an aerial view of the office. To put job candidates at ease, the layout offers adjacent interview rooms, plus a front desk that places the receptionist at a lower, more welcoming level.

In New York City, interviewees are also front of mind. During a redesign of the 9th Avenue lobby, the team found that anxious job candidates rarely sink back into cushy chairs, so they used more formal seating. Design-wise, a colorful milk crate wall gives a nod to the company’s beginnings, when founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin used milk crates to stack their paraphernalia in the garage—a fun surprise when the elevator doors open.

The lobby in London’s Belgrave House, designed to resemble a posh British gentlemen’s club, is infused with wit and whimsy, with flocked wallpaper, a pinstripe pillar, ornate images of the queen, and bowler hats that double as light fixtures. “The idea was to make it the absolute antithesis of engineers’ typical style,” says Jane, a facilities manager. It’s this kind of creative vision that keeps Google at the forefront of modern workplace design.