Dezeen Magazine

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

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


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.


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.


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.


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.


"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."


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."


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.


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."


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.


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.