The Story Behind Google’s Mysterious ‘Happy Birthday’ Window
Why does Google’s Bakery Square office display a quirky piece of East Liberty ambiance?
Kennywood floor photos by Martha Rial
It becomes evident pretty quickly during a stroll through the Google Pittsburgh offices in Bakery Square that the Internet giant takes great pains to reflect the character of the city through decor.
Conference rooms are named after iconic ’Burghers, bridges, businesses and points of interest. There’s a Kennywood floor, complete with a custom-made Thunderbolt car and a Potato Patch-themed microkitchen. In fact, Pittsburgh is evident in some fashion on every floor that Google occupies.
I was fortunate to have the chance recently to tour one of the floors I hadn’t yet visited. It’s a calm, quiet oasis. A soothing space of natural greens, browns, stones and wood grains. Your chakra immediately aligns the moment you step off the elevator. I would imagine it’s a highly coveted workspace, not only for the peacefulness, but also for the cafe serving up custom-made cappuccinos and lattes for hard-working employees.
It was there in the cafe that someone pointed out the peculiar thing hanging on the back wall.
Perhaps you recognize it as the corner window from the second story of the old Wallace Building in East Liberty that recently was transformed into residential space. It’s painted with “Happy B-Day, Julia” — a sentiment that remained on the window for almost 10 years and became a sort of a public art display for those who strolled past.
Intrigued, I queried Google’s public affairs department in New York City to learn how Google came to possess the “Happy Birthday, Julia” window … and why.
PittGirl: Whose idea at Google was it to salvage the window from the construction site and bring it in as a wall decoration?
Google: A Googler in the Pittsburgh office saw an op-ed in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette about the window and posted the piece on her Google+ page, wondering aloud if we might be able to salvage the window to hang it as art in our office. The facilities manager for the office, Jon, saw her post and got to work to see what we could do.
PittGirl: How did Google go about actually acquiring the window? Did someone just go and get it from the dumpster or was it sort of a more official, concerted effort to salvage it?
Google: Jon reached out to the landlord of the building (via the same post on Google+ where this all started!) and asked if we could have the window if there were no other plans for it. We discussed it with the landlord and the author of the op-ed piece, who also had an interest in saving the window. The demolition workers removed the window, wrapped it in bubble wrap, and sent it over to us. We held it in storage until we found the perfect spot for it, in our cafe.
Now I just have more questions. Who is Julia? Who wrote the sweet message for her? Where are they now? Do they know their window holds court in Google’s Pittsburgh office, frozen for posterity, gazed at and pondered upon by employees who stop for a work break?
Maybe now they will.