Great Google-y Moogly

Google Pittsburgh's new Kennywood-themed office space will blow your mind.




Photos by Martha Rial
 

 

Standing on the gently sloping entrance ramp that leads to the Thunderbolt — the red railing, the dark-brown wooden floorboards, the white trim and bright light bulbs overhead — is an intimately familiar experience to any born-and-bred ‘Burgher.

But this isn’t Kennywood. It’s the latest addition to the offices of Google Pittsburgh. The company’s Bakery Square offices, designed by the visionary team at Strada LLC and housed in a former Nabisco factory, are already well-established as one of Pittsburgh’s most impressive workplaces. Now, they’ve expanded to take up a third floor, and in yet another demonstration of Google’s resolve to be a truly local company, their new space is dedicated to Kennywood. From end to end, the addition is decked out with photos, signs and decor from and inspired by the West Mifflin park.



The accuracy of the Thunderbolt ramp is remarkable. The only thing missing is wads of age-old gum stuck to the railing. “We actually thought about getting fake gum,” says Jon Barker, Google Pittsburgh Facilities Manager. “And it’s totally cool if people start carving stuff into the wood.”

That attention to detail can be found throughout the rapidly expanding space. The Googlers (never referred to as employees or staff) are particularly proud, for example, of all the food options on-site — a cafeteria that serves healthy meals every day, free of charge, as well as five “micro-kitchen” snack bars.

“You’re trying to create these places where people can run into each other, stop and chat,” says Cathy Serventi, Google Pittsburgh Administrative Assistant. “Different kitchens have different feels to them.”



At Google, though, a snack bar is far from a hasty collection of soda, chips and cookies. The company discovered that people are more likely to take food that they can see, so mango slices sit in a clear jar, while candy hides in an opaque white one. Healthy drinks are put at eye-level in coolers, to encourage employees to stay away from the soda on the bottom shelf. Every detail is purposeful.

“I think everyone here really believes in what the company is doing, and is really enthusiastic about the mission of the company,” says Kamal Nigam, one of Google Pittsburgh’s Engineering Directors (and a 2011 Pittsburgh Magazine 40 Under 40 honoree). “We really hire excellent people -- and as a result, we have an excellent place to work.”

The Kennywood touches continue around every corner — for example, every room is named after a popular ride, and an faux admission ticket boldly hangs on every door. Photos of the park, many taken by the Googlers, adorn the walls, as do signs made by Matt Palm’s Old Glory Sign Co. (the subject of our March 2012 Personal Space column). And hiding around one remote corner is the mysterious Zoltar, a life-size, animatronic fortune teller in a glass box.

“Hear your fortune from Zoltar!” the robot exclaims. “Ah, yes. It looks like today must be your lucky day! For I see relaxation in your future.”

That’s a pretty safe bet at Google Pittsburgh. Just around the corner from all the energy of the Kennywood artifacts is the wellness area. A “non-conference” room for quiet, free-form discussion leads into a massage room, where Googlers can receive free massages three days a week.



It’s enough to make any visitor jealous. Fortunately, while we can’t all drop into the offices and chill, there are plenty of ways that Google works with Pittsburgh.

Google gives grants to a laundry list of local nonprofits (from Pittsburgh Cares and Pittsburgh FIRST to the Mattress Factory and Girl Scouts Western PA, to name a few). They invest in green technology and projects. They’re constantly engaged with local K-12 groups and Carnegie Mellon University, where Google Pittsburgh originally opened.

And they just released a report that can put a dollar value on Google’s impact on the local economy: more than $1.6 billion.

So yes, it’s a great place to work, but Googlers are also among Pittsburgh’s best neighbors, in an ever-growing number of ways. And the expansion into the Kennywood floor (as well as the lease on another floor of the facility, which Google is holding for future expansion) is a tacit commitment that the company’s integration and involvement with the city is only growing.



Past the Potato Patch-themed micro-kitchen and the office’s pooch, a laid-back bulldog named Trixie, you can wind your way back up to the sixth floor, overlooking an open stairway that’s designed to look like the Thunderbolt track itself. The stairs flow into a giant, two-story photo of the ride, and the crowning piece, between the “tracks” of the staircase, is a custom-made Thunderbolt car. Google worked with Kennywood to build it, so obviously every touch is perfect, down to a switch that turns on a wildly oscillating headlight (a former mainstay on Thunderbolt cars).

The roller coaster cart sums up Google Pittsburgh, if that’s possible: Great attention to detail, a sense of playfulness and wonder, engagement with the community and its history — and, most importantly, ever-present cool. Pittsburgh’s most incredible workspace? No doubt about it.
 

Sign Up for the 412 e-Newsletter

 

Our new, daily e-newsletter is curated by the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine and is designed to give you the very best Pittsburgh has to offer -- delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign me up!
* Email
 First Name
 Last Name
  * = Required Field
 
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Best Restaurants 2016

Best Restaurants 2016

Which 33 Pittsburgh-area establishments did our independent Restaurant Review Panel include among its top picks this year? Find them here.
Six Pittsburgh Chefs Who Are Outstanding in Their Field

Six Pittsburgh Chefs Who Are Outstanding in Their Field

In addition to awarding Best Restaurant honors this year, our Independent Restaurant Review Panel also voted to recognize six chefs for their contributions to Pittsburgh’s culinary community in 2015.
Citizen Artist: Vanessa German

Citizen Artist: Vanessa German

German blends a collage of community activism and soul-searching artistry.
PittGirl to Wooers: ‘Not Today Satan, Not Today’

PittGirl to Wooers: ‘Not Today Satan, Not Today’

It only takes one person, one jagoff, one childish, attention-seeking, discourteous jerk to send a woo through PNC Park.
Daytripping: Canonsburg is a City of Antiques

Daytripping: Canonsburg is a City of Antiques

Nearby Canonsburg is a rare find for antiques collectors.
U.S. Open at Oakmont: Will The Town Finally Be a Player?

U.S. Open at Oakmont: Will The Town Finally Be a Player?

The U.S. Open is returning to Oakmont — and unlike previous tournaments, this one could make the community a vital part of the action.
Edit Module

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


5 Reasons PyroFest Will Light Up Your Memorial Day Weekend

5 Reasons PyroFest Will Light Up Your Memorial Day Weekend

PyroFest will also include live music, food, a Kids Zone and more.

Comments


Pittsburgh, only cooler
PittGirl: How You Should Grade A Squishy Tongue

PittGirl: How You Should Grade A Squishy Tongue

Kennywood Park opens soon and new this season is the return of the famed whale at the entrance of Noah’s Ark. In the name of science, PittGirl paid an early visit to test the squishiness quotient of the whale's all-important tongue.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Richard DeShantz Plans Two New Restaurants at Salt of the Earth Building

Richard DeShantz Plans Two New Restaurants at Salt of the Earth Building

DeShantz owns three other Pittsburgh restaurants and is about to open a fourth.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
The Best 6 Places to Get a Cup of Tea in Pittsburgh

The Best 6 Places to Get a Cup of Tea in Pittsburgh

The quiet rise of Pittsburgh's tea scene gives us a few favorite gems.

Comments


Highmark Stadium Pub Wants Your Attention

Highmark Stadium Pub Wants Your Attention

The in-house tavern at the Riverhounds' home stadium is now welcoming guests during weekdays. But is it worth a dedicated stop?

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Resurrected Penguins Writing Their Story Their Way

Resurrected Penguins Writing Their Story Their Way

These Penguins have been downright unrecognizable, individually and collectively, on the way to the Stanley Cup Final.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Flip the Switch: Industrial-Style Lighting Made in Pittsburgh

Flip the Switch: Industrial-Style Lighting Made in Pittsburgh

An electrician by trade, designer Thomas Verscharen creates custom lighting out of repurposed pieces.

Comments


Sean Collier's Popcorn for Dinner

The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
The X-Men Would've Done Better in Wonderland

The X-Men Would've Done Better in Wonderland

Reviews of "X-Men: Apocalypse," "Alice Through the Looking Glass," "A Bigger Splash" and "Love and Friendship."

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Get with the (Wedding) Program

Get with the (Wedding) Program

Have you ever considered making programs for your wedding guests? If not, think again and get creative.

Comments


The latest tips and trends to refresh your home.
A Tiny House that's Big on Energy Savings

A Tiny House that's Big on Energy Savings

Spread out across the city for these upcoming events, including a “Tiny House” exhibit at the Carnegie Science Center displayed by the FIY Network.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Duquesne University to Host Small Business Networking Event

Duquesne University to Host Small Business Networking Event

The event will connect hundreds of small business managers and owners and provide useful information to help them take their enterprises to the next level.

Comments