A few months ago, the Google Open Source team had an offsite in our Chicago office, and we were looking for something fun, social, and geeky for the teams to do during informal discussions. Before that, my colleague Aza had shown me a cool new thing that he was making called Bloxes -- interlocking cardboard boxes that were something like giant legos that connected on all six sides. They were actually invented by Aza's father, Jef Raskin (who started the Macintosh project at Apple), and were originally intended to be used to build flexible workspaces (like easily morphable cubicles). Having seen some samples of what you could build with them, I thought it would be fun to order a bunch of Bloxes for the team to build things out of while sitting around chatting and brainstorming.
We built a number of interesting things out of the Bloxes that week, but the real fun started after the offsite was over. Several of the Chicago engineers really took to the Bloxes; every week new, fun new sculptures would show up in the lounge. And every week, they would get knocked down (often by the same people who built them up). We decided to match the brown Bloxes with an equal number of white Bloxes, bringing our total to 360. Creativity took it from there -- from a conference room and a giant archway to living room furniture, a pair of giant dice, an office, and much, much more.
Frequently, engineers wind up building something while discussing a bug or a feature, and it's a great conversation starter when other Googlers walk by and see a work in progress. So, what started as a somewhat quiet lounge with a whiteboard quickly became a must-see stop on the office tour for visiting dignitaries, and even better, an ever-changing public space that's fun to construct, and even more fun to knock down.