Google’s First Permanent Retail Store Feels Like an Exploratorium

The tech giant’s first physical storefront, an experiential space at its New York headquarters, lets customers play with its growing suite of consumer hardware.

All photography by Paul Warchol, courtesy of Google

For the first time in Google’s 22-year history, the tech giant has opened a brick-and-mortar retail store. Located at the base of the former Port Authority Building, a vast Art Deco structure that also houses company’s New York headquarters, the 5,000-square-foot outpost will serve as a one-stop shop to explore Google’s growing suite of consumer hardware from Pixel phones and Nest smart-home gadgets to Fitbit wearables. Beyond a place to purchase and repair devices, the store offers an abundance of immersive experiences so customers can see firsthand how Google forecasts its technology fitting into day-to-day life. 

Much like the products inside, the store feels light-hearted and approachable. One zone mimics various rooms within a house outfitted with Google hardware; “Discovery Boxes” lined up along windows feature 3D animations that tell stories and little-known details about various Google products. In the back, “sandbox” zones let customers test out products for themselves. Anchoring the store is a 17-foot-wide room-like installation, outfitted with giant LED screens, that immerses visitors in artistic explorations of Google’s software like Search and Maps. For the inaugural Translate experience, customers can whisper phrases and hear that same phrase whispered back in 24 languages while also displaying that text on a screen. 

Ivy Ross, Google’s VP of hardware design, who also served as the project’s creative director, opted for sustainable design details that forge a calm atmosphere. Wood veneer walls, for example, are made from responsibly sourced hickory. Daniel Michalik designed the furniture using renewable materials such as cork that also emanate feelings of warmth—an antidote to the antiseptic, pared-down minimalism often favored by Google’s competitors. “The space is designed to be a physical expression of what Google stands for,” Ross tells Fast Company. “We wanted the space to continue the design principles that radiate from our product. Our philosophy is that technology must fit into our lives, not stand out. We want this space to feel human because we believe that technology is a tool to amplify our possibilities as humans.” 

Ross worked closely with architect Suchi Reddy, founder of local firm Reddymade, to design the LEED Platinum–certified space. The two previously collaborated with Johns Hopkins University’s Arts + Mind Lab on “A Space for Being,” an exhibition during Milan Design Week 2019 about the nascent field of neuroaesthetics, which explores how design elements like color and texture impact our biology. 

It’s unclear whether or not Google, which has long hosted retail pop-ups, will expand its retail footprint to other cities. Unlike Apple, a hardware juggernaut with more than 500 stores worldwide, the vast majority of Google parent company Alphabet’s revenue comes from digital ads, which generated $147 billion last year alone. Its other major competitor, Microsoft, permanently closed its entire crop of retail stores during the pandemic. If anything, Google is likely testing out the waters—its foray into retail will serve as a testing ground for garnering valuable customer insights and building them into upcoming products. 

Google is located at 76 Ninth Avenue in New York City.

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