A few days ago I snuck inside Google’s new office in Manhattan. I didn’t exactly infiltrate the janitorial staff, nothing so devious or illegal. I had some help from the locals. It was all very Hudson Hawk.
As I’ve reported here before, Google’s new office is located in 111 8th Avenue, a “carrier hotel” that is home to several Tier 1 and Tier 2 providers. Before it was refurbished in the late ’90s, though, it was a musty old Port Authority building. The outside of the building is decorated in gold relief. Some of the hallways still have the original marble, and the elevators are small and ornate.
I stepped out of the elevator onto the 5th 4th floor(fine, I was blindfolded) and walked through a set of doors into the reception area. The reception area is a large room without much furniture. There was a receptionists’s desk, natch, and above that was a projector and a screen that shows satellite images from Google Maps.
To the left of the desk, a few feet away, was a black electric massage chair plugged into the wall. At that time it was the only piece of furniture on that side of the room, which gave it a “I’m a lonely electric massage chair” kind of feeling.
To the right the room opens up and I saw some more accommodating furniture. A Googler told me later that the chairs and stools were from IKEA, but actually I think they must all be from Design Within Reach(which, on a journalist’s meager salary, is most definitely not). In front of the chairs were ottomans made from cork. There were a few magazines nearby, but nothing very Google-y. Newsweek and Time, I think.
Nearby was a small kitchen. The food racks were filled with potato chips and snacks, but I’m pretty sure they were the fancy health-food type, because I didn’t recognize the brands. There were also three large kitchen bowls with peaches, pears and apples. I was gonna take a few, but they weren’t ripe. If I’m recalling correctly, there were also cereal dispensers.
Walking past the kitchen you pass through a door and enter the work area. The size of the place doesn’t hit you immediately, because there are a few offices in your line of sight. But, turning right, there’s a long carpeted hallway that runs for maybe a hundred yards or so. If you don’t feel like walking, there are a handful of Razor scooters beside the door.
“Without the Razors, it takes a good five to seven minutes to walk the circumference of the place,” a Googler said. The building covers an entire city block. It’s the second largest building in Manhattan in terms of square feet. Google is moving into three floors.
I should mention that the office is painted in Google primary colors.
Scooting down the hallway you’ll find a massage room. According to one Google employee, there’s a massage therapist on duty eight hours a day. On the left side of the hall are several small, two-person meeting rooms. Each meeting room comes complete with two chairs, a desk, an Internet connection, pads of paper, pens and pencils. The doors slide shut for privacy.
A little further down is a tech center where all the Googlers go to get their equipment fixed or pick up new toys. The guy inside was wearing a Blogger t-shirt. There was another kitchen further down.
I walked around a corner and through the sales area, discovering two things. First, the sales people hoard all the razor scooters. Second, they keep a wheel of fortune in the corner. The slots on the wheel are perks like “take the day off.” I tried to spin it but the damn thing made so much noise I stopped it, turned around … and tripped on a razor scooter. Sales people.
The main work area on this floor is a huge room that resembles an editorial bullpen. The desks are laid out in rows, and there are few walls or dividers between people. In the open meeting areas are small white desks surrounded by red, ergonomic Panton chairs from Design Within Reach. They look comfy.
Almost the entire north wall of the office is a window, and it offers a magnificent view of midtown and the Empire State Building.
On my way back toward the front door, we stopped off at a printer called Flatbush Avenue and a conference room called Park Slope. The printers are apparently all named for subway stops, and the conference rooms for neighborhoods in the five boroughs.
That’s about it. On my way out I did grab a peach. Then I went to Chelsea Market to get some grub.