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10 Incredible Office Playgrounds
By Julian,
Business Pundit, 17 February 2015.

Innovative, youth-minded companies around the world are pushing the limits of conventional office design, with moves ranging from installing functional slides to incorporating an 11-foot dinosaur. The idea is to create fun workplaces that encourage creativity, interactivity and productivity, blurring the lines between work and play. Or, as Google puts it, “When you want people to…push the boundaries of what’s possible, their workspace shouldn’t be a drab maze of beige cubicles.” Bonus perks of wackier, more playful office spaces also potentially include press coverage, more demand in the recruitment stakes, employee satisfaction and a healthier work environment.

This lists highlights ten inspiring workspaces that are more like playgrounds for big kids than the sterile, identikit offices often associated with nine-to-five jobs.

10. PEER 1 Hosting - Southampton, United Kingdom

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Global web services outfit PEER 1 Hosting wanted something special ahead of moving to its new European headquarters in Southampton, U.K. Designed by British firm Space and Solutions, the former bar-turned-dream office features a slide, a pair of swings, a miniature golf course and a traditional-style pub - and it all reportedly cost over US$1.8 million to realize. The 17,000-square-foot office opened in 2013, and then managing director Dominic Monkhouse explained to the BBC’s South Today, “It’s not a gimmick at all if you think, ‘Do pigs create pig sties or do pig sties create pigs?’” Such surroundings, though, come with an element of expectation; the former boss believes that they encourage staff to “give [their] best every day.” One employee seemed happy to agree, telling the regional news show of the “complete culture here of work hard, play hard.”

9. Red Frog Events - Chicago, Illinois, USA

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Completed between 2010 and 2011, Red Frog Events’ youthful office in Chicago, Illinois was designed by local company Torchia Associates - which has since merged with international firm NELSON. Red Frog’s clear vision of its “dream office” required a space with “sliding boards, hanging ropes and climbing walls” - and so the team of architects began working its magic. Playful elements like a treehouse, a rope bridge, a meeting room table made entirely out of LEGOs, a climbing wall and a tented social area bring together, according to the designer, “fun and functionality.” Red Frog Events further explains on its website that “Camp Red Frog” is a “home away from home” that is unique and conducive to “exceptional work on what can often be a short timetable.”

8. Google - Mexico City, Mexico

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Google’s fun Mexico City headquarters looks as though it was created more for big kids than hard-working employees. The eye-catching office space was designed by Mexican firm SPACE and completed in 2013, with playful features including turf-style carpeting, a subway-like area that doubles as a server room and a brightly coloured VW Beetle cab used for private phone calls. Elsewhere, suspended swings arranged around a faux pond that additionally serves as a ball pit are intended as a casual meeting space. The workspace also pleasingly features touches of local flavour, like a Mexico City Google Map carpet in the office’s Tech Talk area, a Teatro Blanquita social interaction room, and a trajinera - a traditional flat-bottomed vessel - utilized for video conferencing.

7. Missing Link - Johannesburg, South Africa

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Rich Mulholland is the man behind South Africa’s biggest corporate presentation company, Missing Link, and his daily routine is more exciting than most. This is because Mulholland spends his working days in a treehouse, overlooking an award-winning space described by the firm as “a riot of colour and carefully orchestrated chaos.” Elsewhere, employees can travel down a level via a slide or fireman’s pole, meet in themed spaces, deliver presentations on a stage fit for rock stars and blow off steam at the office’s shooting gallery. “Our product is about getting people to not be boring,” Mulholland has explained to South African TV network SABC 3, “so we couldn’t very well work in space that was.” Completed over six weeks in Johannesburg in 2011, the unique design was masterminded by Mulholland and managing director Samantha Dean. [Video]

6. Google - Zurich, Switzerland

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The value Google places on creative workplaces can be seen in its global collection of fun, unconventional offices - and the internet giant’s Zurich base, which houses the company’s EMEA Engineering Hub, is no exception. The workspace was designed by Zurich- and Berlin-based agency Camenzind Evolution and completed in March 2008, with Camenzind describing it as an “amazingly inspiring new work environment for Google.” As far as playground-like elements are concerned, the office features an extravagant slide, a fireman’s pole, a place for shooting hoops, and a mini soccer pitch playfully dubbed “Googoal.” The prize-winning facility also showcases a stage, a video games room, hammocks and numerous themed pods, domes and meeting spaces - plus, a gym.

5. iSelect - Melbourne, Australia

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The only thing more fun than an office slide is an office slide leading to a giant ball pit - much like this one at the Melbourne headquarters of Australian online comparison company iSelect. Impressively, the slide exits and re-enters the building before depositing willing staff into the oversized play pit, which is located in the cafeteria and entertainment area. According to V-Arc, the Sydney- and Melbourne-based practice behind the unique workspace’s look, iSelect asked for a “fun, quirky” work environment that was “professional yet entertaining” and facilitated communication between departments. And while the office’s design took over a year to complete, that certainly seems to have been time well spent; former CEO Matt McCann told The Australian Financial Review that “energy and fun permeates” the building, while staff communication apparently improved after the project’s 2012 completion.

4. Mind Candy - London, United Kingdom

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It’s perhaps not surprising that the company behind hit kids’ phenomenon Moshi Monsters cooks up its cuddly creations in a fun, creative setting - but Mind Candy’s workspace in Shoreditch, London takes playful office design to the next level. “We wanted to make something that people loved working in,” company founder Michael Acton Smith told The Telegraph. And there’s no doubt that that is exactly what has been achieved by Winchester-based firm Close Consulting, which from 2012 to 2013 oversaw the creation of the new office. On top of its cartoon murals painted by French illustrator Pulcomayo - real name Vincent Béchet, and the man behind the design of Moshi Monsters - the space features a slide, a treehouse, a gingerbread house-style meeting space, and a wall that employees can work at colouring in.

3. Chartboost - San Francisco, California, USA

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Any kid walking into gaming tech company Chartboost’s 42,000-square-foot San Francisco office would have a field day. For starters, the office features an 11-foot-tall Tyrannosaurus Rex dubbed “Buster,” which has become something of a mascot for the firm. Moreover, the office’s themed conference spaces bring classic video games like Super Mario Bros., Tetris and Donkey Kong to life, with the Super Mario Bros. room in particular standing out thanks to its mushroom chairs and warp pipe table base. According to local design firm Blitz - the company behind the quirky conception - Chartboost requested an office that would celebrate video games and be “a fun, interactive environment that would excite anyone who entered”. The successful project was completed in 2014.

2. Ticketmaster - London, United Kingdom

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A shiny steel slide leads down from the ground floor to a brightly coloured bull’s-eye in the middle of a basement chill-out area; a model “Red Baron” airplane hangs from the ceiling above; and a bar, pinball games and a jukebox await around the room. In short, Ticketmaster’s funky London workspace - which also includes a picnic-style dining area - is a thing of beauty. Completed in 2013, the office’s whimsical conception was handled by London- and Manchester-based fit-out firm TSK, which approached Scottish interior design outfit Massey & Harris to create the show-stopping slide. Apparently, Ticketmaster wanted its hip new office to “attract and retain staff,” and the firm believes that this is achieved thanks to a design “boosting creativity and encouraging socializing.”

1. Davison Inventionland - Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA

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American inventions outfit Davison describes its imaginative design space as “the world’s largest invention factory,” so its resemblance to something that Willy Wonka might have dreamt up certainly makes sense. Accessed through a secret sliding door hidden behind a bookcase, the Pittsburgh-based facility is named “Inventionland” and features 16 departments - all themed - that stimulate “idea exploration.” These whimsical spaces include a treehouse, a pirate ship, a race car track, a fantasy castle and a ballpark. The 61,000-square-foot “office” was conceived by company founder George Davison, who has asked, “Where else would you want to invent a toy than on a pirate ship?” Referred to by Davison as a “psychological playground for creative people,” the award-winning Inventionland opened in 2006 and cost US$5 million.

Top image: Davison Inventionland. Source: Office Snapshots.

[Source: Business Pundit. Edited. Links added.]

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