Google Reveals New Office Plans

By Brian J Pape, AIA

We have watched the search engine company, Google, grow in Greenwich Village over the years. Now we get to see the completion of a new headquarters building at 550 Washington Street for the mammoth corporation.
Google has revealed the plans for their offices in an application for a liquor license for their catering service within the building.

The new Google offices at 550 Washington Street, corner of Houston Street, feature heavily landscaped areas, including the roof terraces, a specialty of CookFox Architects. Note the truncated railroad beds exposed in white serrated edges, a vestige of the former St. John’s Freight Terminal. The empty lot at right is planned for two skyscraper apartment towers. Credit: Brian J Pape, AIA.

Some common elements that seem to be de rigeur for tech office spaces are, for instance, free snacks, drinks and meals, to keep employees close to their work, while at the same time providing recreational areas for diversions during the long day.

Then, there is the amphitheater-type seating for assemblies or just hanging out in informal groups. For Googlers there will be an entry lobby on the north end just for them, and another entry lobby for visitors or VIPs arriving by car on the south end. The catering services are spread throughout the building’s floors, but two areas were presented for special consideration: the outdoor roof terraces, one on the fourth floor and one on the 12th floor.

When it comes to liquor licenses and gathering spaces on the roof of buildings, there are special concerns to the neighbors that there could easily be disturbing noises carrying over to neighboring buildings. For Google, soon two skyscraper towers will be built just across Houston Street whose residential occupants will surely want to protect their peace and quiet.

What the Community Board Two committee was able to do is resolve that no live or piped in music be played outdoors. There is also a reluctance to have large assembly areas for crowds on a roof. There is also a need to discourage having open bars serving liquor on roof areas, as this is a sure formula for loud crowds late at night.
Fortunately for the neighbors, Google has a policy to take their bigger events to hotels or other event spaces.

Google pointed out to the public hearing on March 9 that they would serve liquor only until 3:30 p.m.—strictly in-house conveniences for employees at work. The heavily landscaped roof terraces will provide park-like settings for Googlers to enjoy the magnificent Hudson River views.

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Floor plans were revealed showing the various catering areas affected by a new liquor license application to the CB2. The Ground Floor has a cafe near the entry lobbies, while the fourth and 12th floors include food bars near their roof terraces. The 12th floor includes a special “Sun Room” and 2 sets of “Gender Neutral Restrooms”. Courtesy of: CB2.


Brian J. Pape is a citizen architect in private practice, serving on the Manhattan District 2 Community Board Landmarks Committee, the State Liquor Authority Committee, and Quality of Life Committee (speaking solely in a personal, and not an official capacity), Co-chair of the American Institute of Architects NY Design for Aging Committee, is a member of AIANY Historic Buildings and Housing Committees, is a LEED-AP “Green” certified architect, and is a citizen journalist specializing in architecture subjects.