Google has been sort of a beacon of change with respect to the internet and pioneered in many ways to revolutionize the way internet was used for information. Somehow, that level of innovation completely misses from the workplaces they provide for their employees.
Google has always projected their office environments as creative amalgam of fun and innovation. I, as a design professional, have never quite agreed with their ‘fun place to work for’ message. Simply because fun is not that simplistic; and may not be achieved just by providing a pool table and colorful bean bags, so to speak. Mature built environments, especially for offices usually stay away from thematic representation. This is primarily because spending extensive time in such environments can be tiresome to the psyche and induced fun, like Google is attempting, can have varied responses from person to person.
Google’s Mumbai new office is a classic case of cultural elements kitsch, that too taken bit too far. In this case, it has taken all the possible Mumbai stereotypes that one can think of and put them together in an even more hackneyed unintelligent format. Bright colors, Kite flying, Cricket, Dabbawalas, Bollywood, and Indian fabrics, all put together which appear to be in a hurried design in an unsophisticated format.
Thematic representations may work for restaurants or spaces where one is not spending extensive amount of time. Themes work better when you want to create drama for an experience. Designed dramatic spaces and experience in small doses work well. I wonder how one will not get weary of the childlike theme in an office environment, where one spends large amount of time of their day?
Enduring carefully crafted built spaces are achieved through mature consideration, experience and deeper understanding of how people work, behave and use spaces. This goes for carefully crafted fun spaces as well. How productivity and creativity can be attempted to trigger in workspaces are a matter of deliberations over several factors on the nature of work, interaction patterns amongst employees, company’s culture, employees culture and the desired outcome. To put things in perspective, it’s a clear matter of behavioural science and how well it can be applied to workspaces.
Fun is also a lot of inwardly gazing. No amount of bright colors and fun motifs will trigger fun in mind if one is thinking of solving a serious work problem or simply distracted. Won’t such a place create mental environmental noise constantly, hindering thought-pattern? Moreover, this assumes that all the employees who will work here will come with same frame of mind, identical conditioning, looking for identical fun work environment with exactly what Google defines ‘fun’ as.