Rethinking Office Space: Google’s Vision on Building Design

Like a number of big tech companies, Google is growing fast. In the past they have acquired/hired existing buildings, but recently they have presented their vision for great office spaces, which they will build from scratch.

“The idea is simple. Instead of constructing immoveable concrete buildings, we’ll create lightweight block-like structures which can be moved around easily as we invest in new product areas. … Large translucent canopies will cover each site, controlling the climate inside yet letting in light and air. With trees, landscaping, cafes, and bike paths weaving through these structures, we aim to blur the distinction between our buildings and nature.”

As you can imagine, this sounds like music to my ears. The paradox is that the designers want to create a meta-building with built-in flexibility that lasts for “many decades” while the ‘interior’ of that building will change it’s purpose regularly during that time. It’s modular thinking on a giant scale.

Google has published a video as well. The actual design ideas become apparent at the 6:40 mark.

Are there ideas in this plan that you will use in your space? Do you think this type of design is attainable for smaller projects as well? Any other developments we should write about? Let’s discuss in the comments!

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6 responses to “Rethinking Office Space: Google’s Vision on Building Design”

  1. Steven Louie says:

    This is so exciting, inspiring, and compelling, it makes me wish I was 20 years younger so I can be a part of this movement. I want to be part of this future. But I reside and teach in SIngapore and will live this through my design students. They must be be ones to make this happen. Totally awesome

  2. David Correa says:

    Sounds very profound in terms of innovation to be able to reach those elements. Reminds me of Frei Otto architecture in Munich ir Eden Project in Cornwell. Uk.
    Well done

  3. shoilee white says:

    We should be incorporating big trees (real organic trees) in our office space. In fact, we can build our office/work space around trees, many, many native organic big trees. This is the ultimate, healthiest, office environment for humans. In fact, we should also have windows that can be opened frequently to let real (organic air) to flow in through the office space. We should use fewer artificial air flow!

  4. Stuart Langford says:

    So with the exterior being of a clear material how would you go about keeping it clean

  5. Jodi Smits Anderson says:

    I love the exploration and am always pleased when companies of apparent diversity in approach work together to achieve even greater revelations in thought and application. I am in a cynical mood today, perhaps, and so my questions all revolve around the initial “why” as well as the implementation or “how” when I see this short film.

    Is California the right place for this huge investment/development when the bulk of the water comes from over the mountains and the bulk of the energy is still produced in Texas? If the answer is “yes”, and I certainly suspect that is the answer (Google, for goodness sake), then I am very interested in how this translucent cocoon approach not only manages light but manages water and its related comfort parameters and the needed controls for a long, healthy water future.

    Is flexibility truly the right thing? I struggle with this all the time. Shelving is adjustable, but really only once…people set it up and leave it be. I have designed flexible education spaces and learned, over time, that balance is very important to ensure that we don’t end up with a large variety of non-optimal configurations. I truly embrace the concept that nature is not over-scripted, and there must be a way to mimic that in our spaces, but it will certainly entail more than a shift in the architecture. It will include of necessity a corporate and personal work approach shift that may take more than a generation in transitioning. How do we support the non-building side of this while we explore the design possibilities?

    Most important to me is perhaps the evolution of the relationship between broad strokes and wide open flexibilities and the control aspects for daylighting/glare, airflow/thermal comfort, and connectivity/services.

    All great questions and I look forward to the discovery of the answers, and hopefully to move toward those answers myself in my own work.

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