The most important thing when it comes to offices is the possibility for people to move around and adapt to what and whom they are working with. It must be easy to team up for ad-hoc meetings and for people working on the same project to collaborate. A single, open space is not up for the task—the noise level is too high. Neither are cubicles.
An office should be composed of rooms with many and large whiteboards, of quiet sections where you can read or hack without disturbances and of areas where you can engage in leisure activities to recharge.
It is of the utmost importance that people “in the zone” are not disturbed by loud brainstorming sessions or people chatting during lunch or breaks, but it is equally important that brainstorming and other creative sessions can take place.
Equipment must not be an obstacle for the user. It is impossible for people to perform at 100% without good monitors, keyboards, desks and chairs.
As for culture and other things social, the most important thing is that people feel encouraged to collaborate and ask questions. Nowhere should you hear the word “stupid” or people blaming each other. Often hearing “what if” and “how about” being uttered are sure signs that you are working in a collaborative and creative environment.