Google plans big splash with bold new campus

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Washington - Google has unveiled plans for a new campus headquarters that will integrate wildlife and sweeping waterways, aiming to make a splashy statement in Silicon Valley - which is already seeing ambitious projects from Apple and Facebook.

The design also includes lush public gardens, looping covered bikeways and futuristic-looking buildings that can be moved about like toy blocks.

The plan submitted last Friday to the city council of Mountain View in California marks the first step in what city officials describe as a long review process.

The new facilities would give the Internet company the room to house an additional 10,000 employees, a company spokesman said. Currently, 20,000 Google staffers work in the city.

Google's blueprint for what has been dubbed the Bay View campus, as it would be located in the city's North Bayshore district, has captured widespread attention because the design is seen as being architecturally innovative.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, the plan is also being closely watched, because of concerns that the high salaries earned by those in the technology industry are pushing housing prices beyond levels affordable for most families.

The design - by architects Bjarke Ingels from the Denmark-based Bjarke Ingels Group and Thomas Heatherwick of the British-based Heatherwick Studio - calls for block-like structures that Google says could be moved around to create space for teams to pursue different projects with different needs.

The design would add 2.5 million sq ft of space to the existing campus, which would adjoin Bay View. Vast, clear canopies over the buildings would allow light to filter into the futuristic campus.

"They're very ambitious," Mountain View city councilman Ken Rosenberg said of the blueprints. "They're taking what we know about building design, and significantly advancing the concept."

The proposal by Google, which is the city's leading source of property taxes, would contribute to greater local prosperity, but would also increase traffic, he said.

Google - which has faced opposition from locals - said its new design is aimed at "rethinking office space".

Mr David Radcliffe, Google's vice-president of real estate, said in a company blog post that "instead of constructing immovable concrete buildings, we'll create lightweight block-like structures that can be moved around easily as we invest in new product areas".

The massive canopies included in the plan would "regulate climate, pollution and sound, while freeing spaces from traditional architectural limitations such as walls, windows and roofs".

The design aims "to blur the distinction between our buildings and nature", added Mr Radcliffe.

Meanwhile, Apple is already in the midst of building its flying-saucer-shaped headquarters in Cupertino, while Facebook has recruited renowned architect Frank Gehry for its Menlo Park campus expansion.

Facebook's new hub - located at the former site of the Sun Microsystems headquarters - has been described as "a large, one-room building that somewhat resembles a warehouse".

AFP, Reuters

Source: Straits Times, 1 Mar 2015