Given the amount of time we spend at work, an office can sometimes feel like a second home. Therefore, it’s important that your surroundings are a little more inspiring than just four grey walls and a row of cubicles.
Luckily, with the conventional corporate rulebook long thrown out of the Silicon Valley-shaped hole in the window, companies are now more inclined to bring a little colour to proceedings. In fact, startups everywhere seem to be locked in an escalating competition to create the most innovative workspace; the results range from the luxurious to the downright bizarre.
We’ve decided to pick 10 of our favourites, so if you’re looking for a little aesthetic inspiration, then read on – these are the coolest offices in the world.
1. Inventionland Design Factory
Location: Pittsburgh, PA, USA
Architects: Inventionland’s Design Team
Unless you’ve visited a Peter Pan-inspired theme park recently, it’s unlikely that you’ve ever come across anything quite like Inventionland. Built in 2006, the Pittsburgh-based incubator was conceived by entrepreneur George Davison as a creative hub for designers to collaborate on product prototypes.
What’s truly amazing about Inventionland, though, is its interior. Costing $5 million (£3.9 million) and split into 16 different ‘sets’, there are castles, pirate ships, ballparks, animation studios and even 3 waterfalls built into its 4 rather large walls. The hub was the subject of its own TV documentary in 2011 and has received numerous awards for its innovative design.
Location: Stockholm, Sweden
Architects: Albert France-Lanord Architects
As an underground bunker hosting high-security web servers – and capable of withstanding a nuclear bomb strike – it’s easy to see why Pionen is often likened to something from a James Bond film. But the former civil defence centre, repurposed by internet provider Bahnhof into a data centre in 2008, is also a cleverly designed, cutting-edge modern workplace.
Buried 30 metres below central Stockholm, the facility contains waterfalls, simulated daylight and a 2,600-litre saltwater fish tank (presumably filled with laser-wielding sharks). It also houses two German submarine engines that act as a backup power generator for the building’s 15 full-time employees.
3. Pallotta TeamWorks
Location: Los Angeles, CA, USA
Architects: Clive Wilkinson Architects
As a charitable organisation, Pallotta TeamWorks had to work within a strict financial boundary of just $2 million (£1.6 million) when constructing its new offices in 2002. The result was the Apostrophe, a ground-breaking alternative approach to efficient but effective design. Centred inside a large warehouse, architect Clive Wilkinson developed tent-based ‘breathing islands’ to negate the unaffordable air-conditioning costs, using shipping containers as both structural support and interior offices.
Unfortunately, Pallotta TeamWorks closed shortly after unveiling its pioneering headquarters as a result of a dispute with its main funding and sponsorship partner. The award-winning Apostrophe still remains in use, however, as the Los Feliz Charter School for the Arts.
Location: Montevideo, Uruguay
Architect: Alejandra Bartesaghi
Originally intended to be built in Paris, this luxurious 1920s mansion instead found a home in colonial Montevideo; some 100 years later, it is now the home of Uruguayan software firm CodigoDelSur, who renovated and redesigned the house in 2017.
The 80-strong team, under the leadership of CEO and founder Nicolas Amarelle, decided on a Steampunk-inspired interior, combining the sophistication of the original décor with the innovative approach of the work being done there. Vitally, there is also room for growth – both figuratively and literally – as the company looks to expand.
As well as office space, there are also games rooms, a cafeteria and a gym, while during the summer, employees can even take advantage of the on-site swimming pool!
Location: Madrid, Spain
If you’re going to be taken seriously as an architecture firm, then your own headquarters need to make a statement about your flair for design. This is certainly the case with Spanish consultancy SelgasCano, whose jaw-dropping forest-based office is both aesthetically unique and environmentally efficient.
Designed in the shape of an aerodynamic tube, the building is half-submerged into the earth, offering sturdy insulation in the winter and minimising air conditioning costs during the summer. The real beauty, though, is the eye-level view of the forest and all its wildlife.
Many urban offices try to synthetically recreate the calming influence of nature (we’re looking at you, Microsoft and Amazon), but SelgasCano and its small band of talented architects have built the real thing.
Location: Zurich, Switzerland
Architects: Camenzind Evolution
While it now may be the norm for every startup east of Silicon Valley to cram foosball tables, sleep pods and exposed piping into their smoothie bar-ridden hipster-centric walls, there was a time when Google’s reimagining of the corporate office space was revolutionary. Starting with its main headquarters in Palo Alto, every satellite office that the tech giant has opened since has followed a similar theme of innovation, creativity and flair.
The company’s Zurich office is a particular case in point. Opened in 2008 and home to over 2,000 ‘Zooglers’, there are free massages, concert rooms, gyms, wine cellars and a whole lot more on offer alongside the usual Google perks. The building is also located just a short walk from Lake Zurich if you want to take in some famous Swiss nature on your lunch break.
As if all of that wasn’t enough, there’s more: at 5pm each day, employees are routinely summoned to the Hürlimann Bar (named after the former brewery on which the offices are built) to drink beer, eat snacks and catch up with colleagues. Regularly voted as one of the best employers in the world, it’s easy work if you can get a job at Google.
Location: Lehi, UT, USA
Architects: Rapt Studio
Even without the scenic views of the surrounding Traverse Mountains, Ancestry.com’s Lehi headquarters are a sight to behold. Opened in 2016, it perfectly captures the company mission of discovering our history and understanding our personal connections to our past.
The most striking visual manifestation of this is the centrepiece ‘chandelier’, which is cleverly designed to resemble a DNA strand. There are also portraits of current employees littered throughout the building, framed alongside those of their ancestors, while, in the lobby, there is a colourful migration visualisation map built into the wall.
Given the generational differences within Ancestry/com’s core workforce (young, tech-savvy developers on the one hand and older, long-time archivists on the other), the company has done a remarkable job in making everybody feel like one big family – an ethos that is at the heart of everything Ancestry.com does.
Location: Stockholm, Sweden
Architects: Adolfsson & Partners
Despite owning offices all over the world, the prize jewel of app developer King is undoubtedly their Stockholm headquarters. Drawing inspiration from the Swedish landscape and implementing interactive flooring and lighting, the whole building is designed to reflect the company’s creative roots. Streams appear underfoot, with digital fish being chased away by footsteps; when the lighting turns blue to reflect winter, the ‘water’ turns to ice and cracks.
The overall result is something that looks and feels like you are in a video game, which is perfect for the company that bought the world Candy Crush Saga. Bold colours, carousel booths and trampoline seats also match the cartoonish theme. King’s resulting output is anything but slapstick, though; the company were acquired by gaming giants Activision for $5.9 billion (£4.6 billion) in 2016.
Location: Cirencester, UK
Architects: Interaction / Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen
What do you get when you combine a Star Wars-themed cinema, Rolling Stones-inspired toilets and a Grade II-listed Victorian castle? The headquarters of money.co.uk (also known as The Castle), of course, an online tech startup based in the rural Gloucestershire countryside.
CEO Chris Morling invested around £3 million ($4.6 million) in renovating the former army barracks, enlisting the help of TV personality Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen to design the unique interiors. The company’s 50-strong staff were also consulted in order to address their individual needs.
The perks don’t stop there, either. Conscious of the isolated location, Morling’s desire to retain workers and attract new ones extends beyond the lure of free food, gaming rooms and a multipurpose gym. Each year, staff are treated to an additional all-expenses-paid trip abroad, with New York, Florida and Dubrovnik all recent destinations.
10. Urban Outfitters
Location: Pittsburgh, PA, USA
Architects: Meyer, Scherer & Rockcastle
It’s always interesting when a company’s headquarters is in line with the identity and brand of the organisation itself. Red Bull’s London office, for instance, features curved walls reminiscent of skate parks in order to reflect its involvement in extreme sports, while alternative clothing brand Comvert paid homage to their outsider image by going one step further and hanging an actual skate bowl from the ceiling of their Milan head office.
Urban Outfitters has gone about things a little more subtly, though, basing their operations in a renovation of a dilapidated navy shipyard just outside Pittsburgh. The contrast between the gritty, authentic leftovers of the original features, and the sleek, modern touches of the repurposed offices are a perfect representation of the company’s branding. Spectacular river views, functional amenities and an enviable location also get a thumbs-up from employees who have been based at the $100 million (£78.4 million) campus since 2011.
If getting yourself a job at one of these offices is a bit of a geographical stretch, then don’t worry – why not just spruce up your own workplace instead? Whether it’s the décor, the furniture or the entire layout, we’ve got you covered with our handy Feng Shui guide.
What’s the coolest place you’ve ever worked? Let us know in the comments below!
This article is an updated version of an earlier article originally published on 23 May 2018.