Exclusive: BIG founder Bjarke Ingels says Google’s ambitions for its Silicon Valley campus had to be reigned in to create a unique working environment that is “buildable and doable” (+ movie).
Speaking to Dezeen today, Ingels said that he and project collaborator Thomas Heatherwick are aiming to set the “industry standard” for workplace design with Google’s new headquarters in Mountain View, California.
Related story: BIG and Heatherwick unveil “vibrant new neighbourhood” for Google’s California HQ
But the duo – whose assorted portfolios include a garden bridge across London’s Thames and a combined power plant and ski slope – had to manage the tech giant’s expectations to create a buildable scheme.
“In this case, both Heatherwick and ourselves had the feeling that we were working with a client that was constantly setting the goal way further then we were used to,” said Ingels.
“Our job, rather than trying to stretch everybody’s imagination, was to actually try to land someone’s imagination in a way that would be buildable and doable.”
BIG and Heatherwick Studio unveiled their collaborative plan to redevelop four sites last week, creating a flexible new headquarters of buildings and gardens sheltered beneath translucent canopies.
Ingels said the result would be “more like a workshop than a corporate office” – and described it as a series of structures that can be adapted or replaced as Google’s needs change.
“We are trying to retain this feeling of having an environment that anyone can actually hack if they want to,” he said. “It doesn’t exactly look like a boring office building.”
Silicon Valley’s two other big tech companies – Apple and Facebook – also have new campuses underway, with designs by architectural heavyweights Norman Foster and Frank Gehry. But Ingels said that Google North Bayshore is the one that will become a model for the workplace of the future.
The design will follow in the footsteps of the Googleplex, designed by architect Clive Wilkinson and also located in Mountain View, where the company has been based for the last 15 years.
“With Google came the success of their working environment; everybody knew that they had foosball and slides and beanbags and snacks,” said Ingels.
“What came from that pioneering experience has become the new established way of doing things, and one of Google’s ambitions with this project was to do it again. The Google workplace 1.0 has become the industry standard and there is a genuine ambition to try to look at the Google 2.0.”
According to the architect, the project will continue the technology industry’s shift away from the cubicle in office design, which he says will soon disappear in favour of “more flexible and interconnected floor plates”.
“Paradigms are changing across the board,” he said. “The emphasis is on the importance of creative work – that you have visual relationships and physical relationships between as many co-workers as possible.”
Ingels and Heatherwick, both still in their 40s, have been working on the project for just under a year. Their proposal involves not only buildings, but trees, landscaping, cafes, and bike paths, all sheltered beneath the network of canopies.
Watch the full interview with Bjarke Ingels in our exclusive movie series, coming soon on Dezeen.
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