Celebrating Wisconsin’s agricultural past while providing a space for its digital future


Madison, Wisconsin

Even though Google’s Silicon Valley headquarters has an unmistakable high-tech, Silicon Valley vibe, Google’s trademark playfulness can be found at all its offices. The challenge with its new Madison office was to identify a visual theme that evoked “Wisconsin” and attracted the University of Wisconsin’s brightest and best engineers. Google drew its inspiration from the building it chose – an old International Harvester factory. The office would celebrate Wisconsin's agriculture heritage while embracing its digital future.

The new design retained as much of the original building as possible. The original factory windows were transformed into conference room walls. The existing freight elevator doors became sliding panels for privacy. Even an old International Harvester tractor cab was returned to the space to become a phone booth. A custom-designed carpet featured the shoreline of Lake Monona. The final, playful touch arrived in the form of the Google logo, made by a local artist from old farm implements.

Within the five months between Kahler Slater's visioning session and opening day, the space was transformed from the old factory to a bright, fresh office space equipped to handle the technological demands of the growing Google staff.