The YouTube Lobby

Submitted by Valerio Dewalt Train Associates

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Client: YouTube

Location: San Bruno, CA, United States

Completion date: 2018

Project Team

Principal Architect

Will Turner

Valerio Dewalt Train

Design Architect

Miles Stemper

Valerio Dewalt Train

Architectural Designer

Chandni Sheth

Valerio Dewalt Train

Studio Director

Crystal Adams

Media-Objectives

Designer

Noah Jeppson

Media-Objectives

Designer

Martyna Ziemba-Martinez

Media-Objectives

Digital Designer

Lane Rick

Office of Things

Digital Designer

Can Bui

Office of Things

Photography

Mariko Reed

Video

Francisco Lopez de Arenosa

Media-Objectives

Overview

The new YouTube Lobby is now more than a point of entry, it is a destination for entertaining guests, showcasing creators and inspiring visitors. After occupying a building that once housed the Gap’s headquarters, YouTube found that the old lobby was out of step with the current brand and did not reflect the vibrancy of the workplace culture. As YouTube’s enterprise has matured, so have the aesthetic principles that can be found in their physical spaces. Natural materials, intuitive design, and multi-purpose functionality played a central role in the development of the new lobby. Underlying these principles was the desire to integrate a layer of digital media and interactivity into the architectural finishes to create a compelling fusion of technology and warm materials. This integration of physical and digital space became fitting symbolic gesture for the headquarters of a digital media company like YouTube.

Goals

Having occupied a building in San Bruno, California that previously housed the Gap’s headquarters, YouTube quickly found that its lobby was in dire need of an update. Functionally, the existing space was congested and poor acoustics made it feel loud and chaotic. But equally important, the entrance to such an important tech company felt plain and didn’t reflect the creativity behind the platform nor its nearly 2 billion user base. For visitors, the lobby would likely be the only part of the company that they would be granted access to, and the experience had been perceived by many as anticlimactic.

A series of visioning sessions with project stakeholders led to design principles that would dictate the outcome of the new lobby. First, was to create a striking experience, something memorable, that would inspire visitors and mark their arrival at the company headquarters. Second, integrate iconic and share-worthy branding to encourage user interaction with social media. Third, incorporate multipurpose functionality and optimal flow, so that the space could be used for events as well as for day-to-day work activities. Finally, to provide a canvas for creators, where visiting Youtubers could display their work at a grand scale.

Process

901 Cherry’s double-height atrium is now stripped down to its metallic structure, intersected by a long skylight that runs the length of the space. Upon entry, visitors are greeted with a floor-to-ceiling digital installation on the southern wall, neatly tucked between the building’s steel structure. Rather than add a cutting-edge high-resolution screen to display content, the designers treated the installation as an art piece, an abstraction of a screen that celebrates individual pixels. The LEDs that light the panels are broadly spaced and set a few inches behind a layer of soft acoustic fabric, so that the material catches the light as large circles. As a result, the videos that play on the screen take on an abstract, ephemeral quality. Unlike the cold plastic materials typically used in technological products, the soft fabric feels inviting and warm to the touch. When the LEDs are off, they’re invisible behind the fabric.

Additional Information

A series of floor “medallions” are spread throughout the lobby, encouraging visitors to interact with the digital installation. Each medallion bears a graphic that describes one of YouTube’s core values. Stepping on a medallion triggers a reaction on the digital wall. Activating multiple medallions in different combinations gets different responses, inviting visitors to work together on learn how the medallions function. Much like YouTube’s online platform, the lobby is designed to foster creativity, exploration, and discovery, all while celebrating the company’s content creators and employees alike.