A trip to the Zoogle...

I can’t believe how long it’s been since the last blog. When you wait this long, you feel as though you need to post something profound to account for the radio silence!

This isn’t particularly profound, but it was a lot of fun. I had the privilege to visit Google’s European HQ in Zurich last week, known by the local as Zoogle. I’d heard a lot about how creative the office environments were, but I was still unprepared for what I experienced in Zurich. The full-sized pool table and multi-coloured soft furnishings in the reception were a shadow of what was to come. Firstly I was greeted by a spiral metal slide (similar to the huge ones exhibited by Carsten Holler in the Tate Modern last year) , used by Googlites as an alternative to the lifts. Then came the coffee bar, which was actually the PC repair zone. “Oh yes”, said my friend – “If we have a problem with our laptops, we just bring them here for a new one, and have a latte whilst we’re waiting”. Nothing gets in the way of creativity and productivity. Needless to say, the Latte –and all of the food and drink – is free. Oh, and if you’re too old for the metal slide, there’s always the fireman’s pole!

Passing a room full of Wiis and other major game consoles, with Googlites playing RockStar, we went upstairs to what almost looked like a normal office environment with meeting rooms. Except that the meeting rooms were stranded cable cars (ski gondolas)! Only in Zurich! My friend assured me that it can get a little warm, so meetings tend to be to-the-point. A number of other creatively shaped meeting room igloos and egg meeting pods which would be the envy of any self-respecting Tellytubby also greeted me, but I was still carried away by the cable cars.

Picture courtesy of Andrew Archy


Up to the next floor, I was taken through hanging silk threads into the quiet “water lounge”. As my eyes adjusted to the bluey darkness, I took in the exotically populated long marine aquariums, and a row of reclining chairs facing them, interspersed with the odd Victorian bathtub, filled with pink sponge cubes.

The top floor, which I didn’t get to see on my short visit, apparently has an antique-looking library with leather chesterfield chairs… Next time perhaps?

I couldn’t help but ask my friend whether Google ever employs consultants. “Why would we do that?” he responded. “That would be too traditional for us – it just wouldn’t be Google”.

Despite my love of independent consultancy, I had to admit - corporate monogamy rarely looked this good…


***Update!  Video posted on BBC website:  http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/7292600.stm