Googleplex Architect: Places Like This Are 'Dangerous'

Clive Wilkinson says megaplex discourages work-life balance, innovation
By Stephanie Mojica,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 24, 2022 3:00 AM CST
Googleplex Architect: Places Like This Are 'Dangerous'
The architect of Google's megaplex headquarters in the San Francisco Bay Area of northern California now has concerns about whether such offices foster work-life balance or support neighborhood businesses, NPR reports.   (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

(Newser) – Loaded with gourmet meals, fitness classes, swimming pools, athletic courts, and so much more, Googleplex seems like a dream come true for most office employees. However, the architect who designed it says in hindsight that what he created fosters a “dangerous” dependency between employees and their employer, per NPR. The architect, Clive Wilkinson, has spent more than 30 years designing offices for mega-corporations. His clients include Disney, Microsoft, and Intuit, but he’s arguably best-known for the huge Googleplex, the company's headquarters in the San Francisco Bay Area of northern California. Wilkinson got this gig of a lifetime after winning Google’s design contest in 2004.

Working closely with Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, Wilkinson says his bosses wanted to replicate the campus model of the renowned Stanford University in the Bay Area. Hence, Wilkinson created everything from bleachers and clubhouses to organic gardens and massage rooms. Laundry services, office nooks to encourage collaboration, private parks, and sleep pods are also part of the Googleplex. However, Wilkinson now fears all those workplace amenities don’t encourage work-life balance and will lead to burnout. He further states Googleplex “drains the immediate neighborhoods of being able to have a commercial reality” because employees do not need to patronize area grocery stores, restaurants, fitness clubs, and other businesses. He believes encouraging tech workers to sleep at the office will derail innovation.

The architect admits it may be impossible to retract such benefits since they’ve been offered for such a long time. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Google workers were forced off campus and appear to have lower morale, though it's not clear whether the two are related. In fact, the tech giant has been giving cash bonuses of as much as $1,600 to reignite worker happiness, Reuters reports. Google recently delayed its return to the office until later this year, but it does appear to be planning to have employees back in offices in some capacity—the company recently spent $1 billion on an office building in London and $2.1 billion for one in New York City and says it's seeking a "hybrid" approach to work, per Forbes. Typically, Google has high workplace happiness and satisfaction ratings, according to NPR. (Read more Google stories.)

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