BIG and Heatherwick unveil "vibrant new
neighbourhood" for Google's California HQ

| 33 comments

News: Google has released a movie detailing its plans for a new California headquarters designed by the studios of Bjarke Ingels and Thomas Heatherwick.

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Danish firm BIG and London-based Heatherwick Studio plan to redevelop four sites in Mountain View, California to create the Google campus – marking the first time the internet giant has designed and built an office complex from scratch.

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The concept for Google North Bayshore is to create lightweight block-like structures that can be moved around, rather than investing in permanent buildings. According to Google, this will offer flexibility as the company invests in new product areas.

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Translucent canopies will cover buildings and outdoor areas, designed to control the climate whilst also allowing natural daylight and ventilation throughout the facility.



"With trees, landscaping, cafes, and bike paths weaving through these structures, we aim to blur the distinction between our buildings and nature," said Google in a post on its official blog.

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Google has been based in Mountain View, just outside San Francisco, for the last 15 years, in an office complex known as the Googleplex.

Once expanded, the Silicon Valley campus is expected to also feature shops and restaurants, as well as environmental additions including enhanced owl habitats and widened creek beds.

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"We chose Mountain View for our headquarters 15 years ago because we love the beauty of the bay, the close proximity to great universities, the family-friendly environment and the chance to work in a city at the heart of Silicon Valley," added Google.

"Today, we want to create office spaces that don't just provide a great home for Google, but which also work for the city that has given us so much."

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Bjarke Ingels told Dezeen the project will create "a vibrant new neighbourhood of Mountain View" that will offer an alternative to typically insular corporate headquarters.

"Silicon Valley has been an engine of innovation driving technological evolution and global economy," he said. "So far the majority of these vast intellectual and economical resources have been confined to the digital realm – Google North Bayshore expands this innovative spirit into the physical realm."

"Together with Heatherwick Studio and Google we have set out to imagine the work environments of future Googlers to be as adaptable, flexible and intelligent as the rest of Google's wide spanning portfolio."

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Ingels and Heatherwick are both in their 40s and could still be considered upstarts in the industry – although both have an impressive portfolio. Heatherwick's projects include the proposed Garden Bridge for London and the cauldron for the 2012 Olympic Games, while BIG has designed a combined power plant and ski slope, and the underground Danish Maritime Museum.

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In the movie, both designers emphasise the importance of nature in their proposal.

"Google's presence in Mountain View is really so strong that it can't be a fortress that shuts away nature or that shuts away the neighbours. It really has to be a neighbourhood in Mountain View," said Ingels.



Heatherwick added: "It's interesting to try and look at how you can really augment or turn the dial up more on that nature, at the same time as looking to protect the land use."

"Part of our work is to try to find ways to make places that you would go and have a conversation, go for a walk with great pleasure, and choose on a weekend to be [at]," he said. "The desire really is to try to make pieces of environment you can work in, in multiple ways."

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BIG revealed to Dezeen earlier this week that it is working with Google and Heatherwick on the project, which was later confirmed by Heatherwick Studio.

Google's David Radcliffe said he chose Heatherwick and Ingels because they are "the two best in class".

"We scoured the world looking for a special architect that could really do something different," he explained. "We really got down to what we believed were the two best in class."

"The BIG studios, they're ambitious. They do a lot of very community-focused projects. Thomas on the other hand has this attention to human scale and beauty that I haven't seen in anyone before."

"You bring those two people together: someone who really thinks about function and form, and you couple that with beauty," he said.

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The project follows in the footsteps of fellow Silicon Valley companies Apple and Facebook – both of which are working with high-profile architects on their new office complexes. Foster + Partners is behind Apple's huge ring-shaped headquarters underway in Cupertino, while Facebook enlisted Frank Gehry for its new campus on the edge of San Francisco Bay.

  • redbeardsf

    So Google is building a bubble for themselves. Makes sense.

  • Jeroen van Lith

    A pleasant and surprisingly modest proposal. Must be nice working in such a green and light environment.

  • James Maxwell

    Bucky Fuller and Cedric Price references are undeniable.

    • TMNL

      Not to mention Frei Otto. Anyway, most of what I get from the movie is an attempt to free the campus from contemporary urban planning, not just its conventions, but the whole discipline altogether.

      Making the development about landscape design first rather than urban design and turning the whole campus into a quasi-spontaneous ‘super-camping-ground’ for its employees.

      I wonder how spontaneous the end result can really be when infrastructure and server parks are taken into account.

      Still, compared to the other two tech giants building a headquarters, Google’s appears the one to focus the most on a better work environment instead of just prestige and aesthetics.

      Compared to Apple’s clinical corporate UFO, this shows that bit more idealism and humanism. Just based on the building I would be inclined to trust this company more than Apple, which could be a hidden agenda by itself.

    • hellfire

      Who’s Bucky Fuller?

    • Schettino

      With a clarity and style unachievable today by these fast-food architects/architecture.

  • Watchmen

    The result is disappointing, at least I was expecting more.

  • Breathing Fire

    It stumps me why the team tasked with creating a vision for large swathes in silicon valley could not include a local architect.

    These two are a great choice, if you want someone to think about the future, no doubt. But wouldn’t it be nice to have another perspective, a local practice invested in the place? Who have practiced here and learnt from past mistakes as well.

    And why oh why two architects? With all this talk of collaboration, interdisciplinary, why not also a landscape architect, or an environmental planner? Not glamorous enough for Google?

    I guess that is why after all that talk we end up with a glass dome to show for it…

    • Kaka

      Heatherwick is not an architect. I really insist, he is not, even if he does building projects. And it shows in his projects that the overall ideas are not conceived by an architect and neither is the general discourse of his office. In this case that may have been an advantage.

  • Medusa

    Quite interesting that this particular take on the ‘future’ is a basically a suburban Frei Otto, particularly the unbuilt project for the medical academy in Ulm.

    Nothing wrong with continuity and being part of a lineage (quite the opposite!) although is probably not the first thing one might associate with BIG and Heatherwick.

  • Jonathan kav

    Wow. This looks amazing! Great job by both architect offices. This is truly something fresh.

  • Sean John

    Bucky Fuller references are obvious, of course, as is the OMA Seattle Library. But while those had monumentality (a “building-ness”) this one seems to be embarrassed by any sense of architecture. For that reason, it looks like a zoo (bird aviary), trying to spout some New York “community” wannabe nonsense.

    New York wins again!

  • Guest

    I obviously don’t have the intellectual facility to “get” these two Masters of the Universe.

  • Notyourproblem

    It is an interesting project, but I have to say that what gives it its grandiosity is the size of it because there have been architects who have been experimenting with this type of architecture previously, such as Shigeru Ban, Nicholas Grimshaw and Frei Otto. The only difference is that this project is more associated with green architecture. I really feel that the project was more developed by the client than the architect in the way that the client demanded to have a high functional campus with many activities. Those activities gave shape to the project. On the other hand, I am really happy to see that Bjarke Ingels is coming out with a different idea, instead of playing with the terrain as he always does.

  • One

    The future here is a structuralist workplace placed in an artificial climate, i.e. a biotope that contains a structurally upgraded favela!

  • Charlie Bing

    Did I miss something, or are the clips from 5:05 – 5:20 going backwards? OK, so it’s nothing to do with the architecture (and who knows if you really can move the components about like building blocks after they are all in place, and under that dome), but it struck me as an odd “miss” some a company like Google.

  • Sameer Chadha

    The commentary on the valley mostly being bland is a good start. We want the possibility of a vibrant and connected community on the ground, an open network, much like the online google-sphere and the internet, rather than private hermetically-sealed mega circus-tents in the the garden of eden, doubtful building blocks of a city neighbourhood. I hope I am wrong but it is a bit smug to predict the future of the way we will work and the future of cities without translating the past.

  • Johan

    I was expecting more, yes.

  • spadestick

    I know I am nitpicking but I see more ideas taken from other architects and landscape architects. For example, a rehashed version of the fading between hardscape and landscape, as taken from James Corner Field Operations. This is a travesty and the proposed product doesn’t even work because plants will need a little more space than shown with the tiny holes to work, maybe moss. Looks like district cooling is definitely necessary for this proposal to work – where are the flues?

  • MtnViewMtnMan

    Exactly what’s needed to grow trees in California: greenhouses. Brilliant.

  • flytoget

    Having watched this PR nonsense about the “dome ecosystem and buildings that aren´t like traditional buildings (with walls, slabs and facades)”, it’s now clear to me that Apple made a very wise choice hiring Foster to design their HQ.

  • Allan

    This proposal – although seemingly offering freedom – seems quite authoritative to me. The domes with their semi-outside realms are too large, with their size simply prevents contact with real outsides.

    Outside is felt as a “no man’s land”, public terrain, either in city or nature.

    To be really outside is to feel free from rules, feel the blast of wind and sun on your face without someone controlling it, see the sky and stars unobstructed, have contact with the universe. To be covered with a net isn’t it. Net marks the “place” of the owner.

    I am not against the domes but against the size of them. Maybe it should have a more linear form. People have to have more choice. For this reason I am somewhat sceptical about it.

  • Carlos Galván

    I think individual proposals by these two great firms would’ve worked better than this one as a team.

  • kong

    The detail idea of the umbrella façade is copied from a 3GATTI project: http://www.dezeen.com/2013/04/23/umbrella-facade-madrid-pavilion-by-3gatti/

  • Thomas V

    Saving nature by building giant greenhouses in California… Maybe I missed the part where they also invented the energy-producing AC? Almost makes me mad how bad this design is and how much b*llocks is being sold in this video.

  • Is this a giant marijuana greenhouse? Because if they put people in it they will actually melt.

    • DS

      It’s great that you’re thinking outside of just aesthetics to comment on this project as this is what all good designers should do.

      Typically projects of this scale and at this stage of development will be working with service and structural engineers, landscape designers, traffic and planning consultants, quantity surveyors and many other technical consultants.

      Good to make the comment though, just in case the heat gain of the glass domes hadn’t been considered. Keep up the good work.

  • Nb76

    Apple’s is much nicer…

  • Andy ramus

    We have already seen the exact same concept in 2000 with Richard Rogers’ Millennium Dome.

  • LOW

    I love how one of the big hitters of Google uses up-talk…

  • Jessica Tandy

    I have two points of contention with this project: no women figuring prominently into the project and the fictitious display of local community.

    Since I live in Mountain View, I can inform you all
    that there are very few apartment buildings so near Google that would make the renderings above realistic in the amount of people who would
    actually stroll around the campus – other than Google employees.

    Downtown MV is shown in the video to appear within walking distance to Google, but it is not, and there is no meaningful relationship between the two in terms of foot traffic.

    The other point is the lack of representation of *the other half* of the world on this project (women), especially given that females don’t feel comfortable entering STEM fields.

    The built environment has a lot to do with whether young women feel they belong and accepted, and placing leaders in the architectural field (who will inevitably be male (and white) in a male-dominated area) will have to work strategically to subvert their own essence to arrive at a less-gendered solution.

    Unfortunately, based on what I’ve seen so
    far, the design solution is no more than the status quo. Preservation of the natural habitat is important, but I’m afraid this is more lip service to notions of community.

  • andrereve
  • If only Google would realise the potential of tensile structures in its Makani kite energy project, which is otherwise deaf to open ideas.