Google AI Research Centre – Accra, Ghana
South African architectural firm Boogertman + Partners is behind Google’s first AI Research Centre on African soil. Located in Accra, Ghana, the new office building and laboratory centre is committed to collaborating with local universities, research centres, and policymakers to lead the future of machine learning technology for tackling continent-specific challenges in agriculture, healthcare, education, and more.
Read along to explore how culture meets contemporary in this exquisite design…
Boogertman + Partners Interiors (B+Pi) was tasked with the brief to create a flagship Artificial Intelligence (AI) Research Centre in Africa that would both articulate Google’s culture and become a tangible celebration of its unique location in Accra, Ghana. Google is renowned for their exceptionally well-designed, high-performing work environments, reflecting the new era of ever-evolving workspaces seen globally. Each Google office interior is designed to stimulate interaction and creativity, regardless of team structure. With a keen focus on the end-user’s experience, their workspaces are places that create community and where innovation and collaboration effortlessly unfold. Google’s focus on facilitating healthy environments extends past the physical office space into long-term sustainability goals and operating-cost considerations. Therefore, the design team’s mission was to deliver this highly flexible, productive, and healthy environment for Google’s new office in Accra.
Local engagement and connections are foundational to experiential design. If the space does not allow the occupants to feel connected, it lacks an imperative ‘Googleyness’ – the unique qualities and characteristics that different Google office locations offer. Every Google office features distinctive lingo, traditions, snacks, and design elements that relate to the building’s location and context. As such, Google values creating an emotional connection between the setting and the brand.
The B+Pi design team honoured this connection by integrating these concepts into the built environment. Human-centric design, branding, artwork, and interactivity are vital pieces of the experiential design puzzle. The more connected someone feels to a space, the more they would like to return to it.
Ghana has a rich and vibrant culture exploding with a wealth of colours, textures, and patterns – not to mention being home to some of the friendliest people on the globe! In addition, Ghanaians place great emphasis on politeness, hospitality, and formality. With this in mind, the B+Pi design team concentrated on constructing a space that feels warm, comfortable, and inviting while upholding an element of sophistication – a space that connects strangers and encourages conversation.
Evoking a memorable experience through any great interior design is always about getting the introduction just right. Authentically Ghanaian textiles like Kente cloth form the foundation of the welcoming reception at the AI Research Centre, with mahogany panels, wax textile wall-clocks, and cane-woven room partitions in the traditional red, yellow, and green colours seen throughout the building. Moreover, the woven wall feature also draws inspiration from the colours of the Ghanaian flag, greeting visitors with a welcoming ‘Akwaaba!’
Custom elements throughout the office make reference to Ghana’s exceptional craftsmanship while office rooms have been named using local slang. Similarly, some of the building’s spaces have been assigned the names of local cuisine and offer a uniquely-inspired design theme for each meeting room, phone booth, and common area. Some of the local dishes, include Injera (a pancake-like flatbread), Kelewele (spiced and fried plantains), and Kachumbari (a fresh onion and tomato salad).
The integration of Google’s modular jack unit into the design brings flexibility to the office interior. The smallest jack is ideal for two persons while the largest can accommodate up to eight people. These jack units are completely customisable and ‘hackable’ – meaning the rooms can be taken apart and reassembled to respond to their particular requirements in the office at any given time. Boogertman + Partners Interiors exhibited design-concept continuity through changing the colours and finishes, and by including a variety of ancillary, interchangeable accessories that come standard to the jack.
Ghana’s tropical climate inspired an outdoor retreat on the building terrace. The open-air terrace encourages Googlers and visitors to get some fresh air, unwind, and experience the pleasant weather. Staff can enjoy a stroll through the garden to clear their mind, find a quiet nook to work outdoors, celebrate a successful deadline with a team barbeque, or enjoy some outdoor games during their lunch break.
Google’s new office design by Boogertman + Partners Interiors showcases a unique play on encounters and a collision of typologies. Utilising design elements from one end of the spectrum (traditional Ghanaian culture) all the way to the other extreme (modern Google culture and global developments), Ghana and Google were able to meet in perfect harmony.
The Google Accra office design focussed on achieving the high standards of the LEED v4 Gold rating system, meeting the stringent standards in energy and water efficiency, material selections, and IEQ performance. The project sets the bar high for environmental performance in office fit-outs in the region.
MEET THE TEAM
Interior architect: Boogertman + Partners Architects
Local architectural partner in Ghana: MultiCAD
Project manager and cost consultant: Mace
MEP engineer: WSP
Acoustic consultant: LINSPACE Acoustic
Sustainability consultant: Urban Green Consultants (UGC)
Contractor: Razor. KH3 Limited
Photographer: Flickart Studios