Google’s Mountain View-based Googleplex is a whopping 3.1 million square feet–that’s almost half the size of the Pentagon, and enough space for 53 football fields, side by side. But its architecture is uninspired, consisting of the anonymously functional buildings you’d see in any suburban commercial park.
According to the New York Times, this will soon change, as Google has enlisted all-star architecture firms Heatherwick Studio and Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) to design a new Googleplex. Proposals will be presented to the Mountain View board this Friday for “a series of canopylike buildings” to accommodate the company’s employees. In an email to Co.Design, BIG spokeswoman Daria Pahhota confirmed that her firm is “working with Heatherwick and Google on a project in Mountain View” but declined to provide further details.
Heatherwick Studio and Bjarke Ingels Group both made Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies list this year. Heatherwick Studio, led by British designer Thomas Heatherwick, is known for its playful approach to form and materials. The firm has built a bridge that rolls up like a slap bracelet, designed a pavilion that resembled Pinhead, and revamped the Olympic cauldron to look downright medieval. Lately, Heatherwick Studio has taken on more ambitious projects: It is working on a 30-acre park in the Abu Dhabi desert, the $290 million, foliage-topped Garden Bridge in London, and a green pier on the Hudson River in New York.
Bjarke Ingels Group–which likes to go by BIG–hatches ideas as grand as its name, like a giant wooden maze and a ski slope that sits on a waste-treatment plant and blow smoke rings. Currently, BIG is working on a bold pyramid-like housing project in New York City that aims to bring the enlightened design principles of Danish living to the Big Apple. The firm also won a bid to build a 10-mile floodwall that could protect Lower Manhattan from another Hurricane Sandy and double as a park during the rest of the year. The throughline in all of BIG’s work is something firm founder Bjarke Ingels calls “hedonistic sustainability”: The idea that, as he told Fast Company‘s Jeff Chu earlier this year, “you can actually be sustainable but increase the quality of life while doing so.”
Google’s news comes on the heels of Silicon Valley peers Apple and Facebook both announcing major new complexes. Apple is building a Clickwheel-like ring in Cupertino with British architect Sir Norman Foster, while Facebook has enlisted Frank Gehry to construct a new headquarters in Menlo Park. Silicon Valley companies used to be defined by opulent perks like free meals and nap pods. Now, it appears that you can add world-class architecture to that list.