2015 NY Design Awards Gold Winner YouTube Space NY & Google BrandLab

Six floors above Manhattan’s Chelsea Market—and encompassing approximately 20,000 sf, including a mezzanine—two highly innovative groups share resources and cultivate synergies

YouTube Space NY houses professional-grade production and support spaces/equipment for emerging and established online content “creators.” With access to sound and green-screen stages, state-of-the-art recording and post-production video/audio edit capabilities, and areas for wardrobe, makeup, and equipment distribution, YouTube’s “channel partners” have the human and technological resources to be ambitious in developing and realizing their ideas. Central to the design concept, YouTube Space NY is also about congregating and learning with fellow creators and industry professionals. Workshops on creative strategy and audience development are held in the training areas. From cozy meeting areas to elevated lookouts, a multitude of touchdown and teaming spaces are available for collaboration.

Google BrandLab is a custom workshop experience designed to help brands grow their brand-building capabilities. The Google BrandLab space provides the resources and environment to support partnerships in advancing digital strategies for brand development online. The workshop space, with its “campfire” and cozy seating, is ideal for informal discussions and gatherings. The NanoKitchen is for snacking and “kitchen table” discussions. And, four distinct breakout areas provide space for brainstorming.

What happens when Madison Avenue marketers intermingle with New York City filmmakers?

Although Google BrandLab and YouTube Creator Space have distinctive areas that meet individual functional and aesthetic requirements, the journey through the space is about transparency and discovery as creative individuals collaborate and learn from each other.

Part of the Google BrandLab experience is exploring how to connect with consumers across a diverse series of digital segments, while maximizing Google’s tools and technologies to bring a brand’s stories to life online. Proximity to creators engaged in learning, sharing and creating enables marketers to view storytelling in real-time. To support this kind of transparency and to encourage discovery among disparate groups, extended sight lines are preserved through a relatively open, fluid floorplan, and glass partitions and viewing windows are integrated throughout the programmed spaces.

For example, in reception, stadium seating opens onto a raised platform where “Studio A” activities are visible through a glass wall. When positioned in front of the glass, a 10’-10”x19’-9” sliding screen can stream live online content or the latest production. Part lobby, part workshop space, part screening room, this area is about the synergistic opportunities of bringing creative people together.

Project Innovation

The design strategy involved maximizing overall space for filming. This is true both in regard to function and for inspirational purposes. All rooms, including bathrooms and makeup, are film-ready. Creators have access to the lighting grid, which extends throughout the space, as well as a raised-floor system to deliver power and provide connectivity. In addition, a range of themed spaces provide creators with variety, such as the conference room that can double as a funeral parlor, restaurant, boardroom, or whatever the creators can imagine.

The project space also delivers numerous stage-like platforms. Many of the windows, for example, include an adjacent elevated area. Although the design was originally inspired by the clean lines of a typical Chelsea gallery, the sculptural architectural elements within this simple container both serve and inspire. Like the window seating made special by the distinctive arched glass panes (circa 1890), the winding, multi-faceted walls also create unique spaces for filming and for post-production debriefing. Each twist and turn unfolds to reveal a different setting. Several of the spaces carved from the sculptural divisions are defined by a subdued palette and lounge-like atmosphere, while other spaces benefit from natural light and unique views of the High Line.

Design Challenge

Strategies for space allocation and traffic flow are, in general, to encourage collaboration. And, despite the heavily programmed space and tight urban footprint, space planning entailed considered strategies for establishing a sense of connectivity.

As one moves through the space, sight lines are mostly unobstructed and programmed spaces flow into each other to support casual collisions between marketers, creators, and other visitors. Key shared spaces, such as “the knuckle’s” open collaborative seating and the “T” lounge, are strategically positioned along main circulation paths to encourage these informal meetings and impromptu discussions. Furthermore, teaming areas are typically adjacent to production spaces to foster a sense of energy and shared community.

Rather than create landlocked studios, the barriers between production and non-production areas are porous. The three enclosed black box studios are not just supplemented by physical sets, such as the diner booths and the “NYC studio apartment.” Rather, the spaces around and near the studios can be used for filming, essentially, extending this already highly collaborative art form into the circulation areas where YouTube and Google BrandLab functions converge. Here, the conceiving, sharing, and implementing of ideas can merge.

Sustainability

Google’s goal is to push beyond current best practices in building technology, while providing healthy and stimulating environments for the end user. The YouTube Space NY and Google BrandLab project was perceived as an opportunity for market transformation consistent with these principles.

The project is currently pursuing LEED for Commercial Interiors v2009 certification at the Gold level. The project involved the careful selection of materials using the Google Healthy Materials Program tools, which requires avoidance of harmful ingredients.

As part of Google’s Healthy Materials Program, all of the project’s building products were put through a rigorous screening process to ensure that all materials met Google’s stringent standards for creating the healthiest work environments possible