Ouch: Google's new headquarters are all about "casual collisions"

© NBBJ architects

Architectural critic Paul Goldberger of Vanity Fair looks at the design for Google's new headquarters in Mountain View, California. It's designed by NBBJ, which Goldberger calls "a somewhat more conventional choice." I must confess that I had to look them up; they have done big, important, effective and pretty anonymous work.

NBBJ/Screen capture

Even their vision statement is more about collaboration, listening, understanding clients and developing solutions than it is promoting design. One can see why the engineers at Google would prefer to have an architect who listens to them and says "yes boss" than one who tries to tell them what to do. Apple's Norman Foster wouldn't last a second here; it is all about data, not design. Goldberger drinks the engineering Kool-aid and downplays the design, not his usual schtick.

What is really striking about this project, however, isn’t what the architecture will look like, about which renderings can show only so much anyway. It’s the way in which Google decided what it wanted and how it conveyed this to its architects. Google is, as just about everyone in the world now knows, the most voracious accumulator of data on the planet. When it decided to build a building, it did what it did best, which was to gather data. Google studied, and tried to quantify, everything about how its employees work, about what kind of spaces they wanted, about how much it mattered for certain groups to be near certain other groups, and so forth.

Here is where it gets really interesting, particularly in terms of the Yahoo! discussion about the importance of being at the office and getting that " energy and buzz in our offices."

The layout of bent rectangles, then, emerged out of the company’s insistence on a floor plan that would maximize what Radcliffe called “casual collisions of the work force.” No employee in the 1.1-million-square-foot complex will be more than a two-and-a-half-minute walk from any other, according to Radcliffe. “You can’t schedule innovation,” he said. “We want to create opportunities for people to have ideas and be able to turn to others right there and say, ‘What do you think of this?’”

You can really tell that Marissa Mayer of Yahoo! came from Google; it certainly has worked for them. More at Vanity Fair

Tags: Google | Green Building

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