Google unveils new HQ plans with startling design

Company is "eager" to design residential neighborhood, would fund large bike network

Google has unveiled plans for an office campus that will undoubtedly be called extraordinary.

Google gave the Voice a look at the plans Friday morning for a 3.4 million-square-foot campus to hold 10,000 new employees, the first buildings Google will have designed and built in Mountain View, despite the city being home to its headquarters since its inception.

Google hired European architects Bjarke Ingels and Thomas Heatherwick to develop the architecture and the result is an astounding proposal for a largely car-free campus that blurs the boundary between nature and offices.

Perhaps the most usual aspect of the design is the changeable nature of the interior elements, made possible through the use of special crab- and crane-like robots to move furniture and "prefabricated units" around. Google has called them "crabots" and has already invested heavily in the technology through the 2013 purchase of robotics company Boston Dynamics.

Designs show a lightweight, translucent canopy draped over an open, multi-story office area, with meandering walking paths, parking hidden under picturesque green landscapes, and publicly accessible retail stores and cafes open to the public. The buildings would be LEED platinum, with water recycling on site to achieve "net zero" water usage -- basically, all water would be recycled on site.

"We're trying to recreate the qualities that were there (in North Bayshore) in the first place," to transform it from a "sea of parking lots into a natural landscape with an abundance of green, not only outside, but also inside," Ingels says in a video about the project now posted on youtube.

Heatherwick added that "a humanistic spirit is something we feel is really important" in the design.

The reach of the proposal extends beyond North Bayshore. Google proposes to help fund a new network of bike paths in Mountain View and surrounding cities, including a bike boulevard on Latham and Church streets. The proposal also includes two new pedestrian bridges over Highway 101 (one at Shoreline Boulevard and another at Charleston Road).

There's a long list of $200 million in public benefits that could be hard to turn down, including a new public safety building, two new parks and a new educational science center in North Bayshore, a major expansion of the city's shuttle system and $1.5 million in scholarships for high schoolers.

With 3.4 million square feet of development replacing older buildings totaling 800,000 square feet, Google officials say they are aiming to develop all of the 2.5 million additional square feet allowed in North Bayshore under the city's new regulations for the area. Various other developers are vying for a piece of that same pie, including LinkedIn, which proposed 1.61 million square feet of offices on Friday, and 1.1 million square feet from four other projects. Proposals for large North Bayshore office projects were due Friday, Feb. 27, at 5 p.m.

"Google's plans are ambitious but they're not the only application turned in today," said City Council member Ken Rosenberg. "I very much look forward to sorting through all of the varying requests with my colleagues while we advance the conversation about the North Bayshore Precise Plan. This is terrifically exciting and the community benefits (from the various applications) may give us much of what we need."

Google also reveals in its proposal that it is "eager" to design a residential neighborhood on land it has intentionally left undeveloped on Shorebird Way and the west side of Shoreline Boulevard, something the City Council recently voted to study after it was a top election issue in November.

While the designs are stunning, the impact on the city's housing shortage also could be extraordinary. There's been talk of adding 5,000 homes in North Bayshore, though Google's proposed development could add 10,000 employees, and LinkedIn and other developers are proposing space for thousands more jobs.

"Google's plan for Mountain View's North Bayshore area is even more imaginative than I expected," said council member Lenny Siegel, who was elected on a pro-housing in North Bayshore platform in November. "It will be the City Council's job to ensure that Google is not the only business whose proposal is fully evaluated, and to make sure we don't allow the over-building of offices. We will be working with the companies to ensure that we do our best to provide housing and transportation for the people who work there."

Google has proposed only "affordable" homes as part of a public benefits package worth $200 million, if all four sites are developed. The homes would be built on a property Google owns at 800 East Middlefield Road, part of a 24-acre site Google bought after the council rejected a 750,000-square-foot office proposal for the site last year, saying the land would be better used for housing.

"Google's position (on affordable housing) is not surprising, since as far as I can recall, the outgoing council did not list housing or affordable housing as a community benefit," Siegel said. "I believe that the new council will be able to work with Google and other companies to include a significant fraction of less-unaffordable housing in new housing developments."

Google's Davis White estimated that up to 300 to 400 affordable homes could be built on the Middlefield Road site, but the city would have to allow Google to build 10,000 square feet of additional office space for every additional unit. That could mean adding 2.5 million more square feet of offices for 250 additional units.

Google proposes to provide a significant part of its public benefits funds towards a "world class" bikeway network through Mountain View and surrounding communities, called in the proposal the "8-to-80 bike gap closure program." "We envision a future where Mountain View and the surrounding communities have become the best and safest place to ride a bicycle in the entire country," the company says.

The project calls for spending $2 million on a bike boulevard on Latham and Church streets, which the city has proposed as well, with "traffic calming" barriers to discourage cut-through car traffic and provide a safer route for cyclists.

There are numerous public benefits to encourage biking in the city, including a bike shop in North Bayshore as large as 3,000 square feet. Free rent for three years and $100,000 in corporate spending would be given to the proprietor, and Google says it will be giving preference to local bike shops looking to expand.

Commuters would benefit from a resurfacing of the Bay Trail to make it more ridable in winter. There are funds for bike safety classes for kids, a plan to distribute 1,000 bicycle-light kits, and 10 electric bicycles for city employees, among other things.

Other miscellaneous public benefits offered include $250,000 for a new playground to serve the 900 residents of North Bayshore's Santiago Villa mobile home park, $3 million to convert old Mountain View city library offices into children's play rooms, a plaza made available for food truck festivals and outdoor movie nights, $2.25 million for three new city staff positions to help process all of the new real estate development, and a new gazebo and educational storyboard at Shoreline Park.

"There's over 30 acres of new habitat and open space we would add to campus," said Audrey Davenport, Google's ecology project lead. Designers asked, "how can we create a place for Googlers that really connects them to North Bayshore ecology" to create a sort of park-like destination?

Among those efforts would be the widening of Permanente Creek in North Bayshore, with higher banks in case of flooding, and the restoration of marsh lands and burrowing owl habitat.

"What we've tried to do is take a step back and say, 'How do buildings work with nature?'" said Google real estate director David Radcliffe.

It may be hard to believe, but the campus buildings are designed to be publicly accessible, Radcliffe says.

"We really want to try and make spaces open and accessible so it's not just for Googlers but anybody (who) wants to come by," Radcliffe said.

"Google's presence in Mountain View is simply so strong, it can't be the fortress that shuts away the neighbors," architect Heatherwick said. "It really needs to become part of the neighborhood in Mountain View."

Google's proposal states: "Instead of block after block of concrete structure, lightweight structures and open spaces will invite the public and the outdoors in. Visitors and employees alike can walk and ride, not just around but through campus buildings."

Davis told the Voice that the buildings were designed in consideration of the possibility of a large new housing development next door.

"We have been studying the potential locations of housing in North Bayshore nearly as long as we have been advocates," according to Google's proposal documents. "We have intentionally left our holdings on the west side of Shoreline undeveloped to preserve the potential option for housing as a future use."

Google also proposes to spend $900,000 over three years to fund an unnamed ad-hoc group that is working to advocate for affordable housing in Silicon Valley, the documents say.

The proposal describes where Google officials believe housing should go in North Bayshore.

"We also feel that other locations in the Shorebird neighborhood are potentially good residential sites," the proposal says. "These could be located close to existing housing at Santiago Villa, within a quarter-mile walk of transit lines, located along planned bike routes, and in beautiful, park-like settings. Creation of a North Bayshore community will take significant design consideration and we are eager to make that happen."

The proposal also reveals that Google is bidding on the VTA bus yard's site on La Avenida, and would add a new northbound off-ramp onto La Avenida and Inigo Way to help alleviate congestion on Shoreline Boulevard.

The City Council is expected to review the proposals for large North Bayshore office projects, including Google's, in late April.

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16 people like this
Posted by kd
a resident of Waverly Park
on Feb 27, 2015 at 2:22 pm

Spectacular - watch the You Tube video
Only problem is managing the traffic of the people that will travel from afar to see this project in the future

34 people like this
Posted by Ted
a resident of Monta Loma
on Feb 27, 2015 at 2:28 pm

I really like what I have seen so far. Can't wait to see what LinkedIn brings. MTV is so lucky to have these world class companies. Not just in their business but also being a good neighbor. Don't forget Intuit/MSFT/NASA and the hospitals. Great city to be in.

19 people like this
Posted by JimmyZ
a resident of Monta Loma
on Feb 27, 2015 at 2:44 pm

I wish they'd rethink their way towards Gilroy. With this monstrosity and the Mayfield Mall getting Googled, the traffic will be even worse that it is now.


3 people like this
Posted by Jeff
a resident of another community
on Feb 27, 2015 at 3:20 pm

I want a beautiful translucent canopy covering my yard bringing a sea of green indoors. Surely my neighbors will support that beautiful vision ...

16 people like this
Posted by Ed
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 27, 2015 at 5:13 pm

This is a huge opportunity to remake an underutilized area. The challenge, of course, will be getting people in and out.

An extra freeway offramp isn't going to cut it.

Segregated lanes for transit and bicycles between the downtown transit center and North Bayshore would be a good start. That likely means a new overpass over 101.

The city should push for transportation improvements that are as forward-thinking as Google's campus designs. We won't get everything we want, but we'll get nothing if we don't ask for it.

3 people like this
Posted by Doug A
a resident of Monta Loma
on Feb 27, 2015 at 5:50 pm

The Mercury News now has an article about Linkedin's expansion plans. Hopefully there is room for Gold's Gym in the LinkedIn development. Both Google and LinkedIn have open campus designs with retail and public access.

3 people like this
Posted by Tent Caterpillars
a resident of North Bayshore
on Feb 27, 2015 at 6:15 pm

Here is what a Tent Caterpillar nest looks like:
Web Link
Nothing like the Google Plex!

Google has done an admirable attempt at mimicking the view of the mountains once visible from all parts of Mountain View, soon to be obliterated by the dense growth Google has funded. Perhaps if it was colored dark green to look like the mountains!

I would have expected something more inspiring, that would make Shanghai, Hong Kong, Dubi, and the zero in Cupertino (binaryly speaking) one-upped.

27 people like this
Posted by CP Resident
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Feb 27, 2015 at 6:27 pm

@JimmyZ - If you don't like density, maybe it's you whom needs to move to Gilroy. It's quite lovely and quiet there.

@ Tent Caterpillars - So, you want MV to be closer to Shanghai, HK, Dubai. So, you're asking for MORE density, right?

The fact is, if you can manage growth well; and get more density, the value of the place goes up (think Canary Wharf, or HK Island, Shinjuku, Munchen, etc etc. MV has the opportunity to shift the center of the bay area away from SF.

9 people like this
Posted by Council Watcher
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 27, 2015 at 7:36 pm

From the article:

"Google's Davis White estimated that up to 300 to 400 affordable homes could be built on the Middlefield Road site, but the city would have to allow Google to build 10,000 square feet of additional office space for every additional unit. That could mean adding 2.5 million more square feet of offices for 250 additional units."

So Google is offering 250 "affordable" units in exchange for 2.5 million sf of office space, above and beyond this proposal? That would be an insanely bad exchange.

Is this a misprint? Lenny or Daniel, could you clarify this? It seems to me that Google should be offering a large number of affordable units as one of their "public benefits," with no quid pro quo. They can afford it.

6 people like this
Posted by Cleave Frink
a resident of Willowgate
on Feb 27, 2015 at 8:35 pm

I would hope that somewhere in this proposal would be some money from one of these developers toward building or renovating a school which would be a need for one of these development areas should something this grand be approved.

7 people like this
Posted by Mountain View Resident
a resident of another community
on Feb 28, 2015 at 12:15 am

It's beautiful! Very Alvin Toffler inspired. I like it. I can't wait
to bike all over it when it is finished with my family. Plus hopefully some cool food places to go to that aren't too expensive.

5 people like this
Posted by No Food Places
a resident of another community
on Feb 28, 2015 at 1:07 am

All of Google's many food establishments serve free food to Google employees and contractors and invited guests only. There's no access for the public to any of their food service facilities. This will soon be the entirety of food service in the North Bayshore area with the possible exception of concessions in the Regional Park.

3 people like this
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Feb 28, 2015 at 8:53 am

Buildings and grounds look stunning which I am hoping they will open to the public even if only on the weekends and holidays.

If open to the public why not have a cafe/restaurant pavilion.

Shoreline/Middlefield/Terra Bella business park might be good for housing/mixed use with those ramps to start and finish point for west of 101.

24 people like this
Posted by True
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Feb 28, 2015 at 11:23 am

I grew up in this valley and have lived all over the country before moving back in 2000. One of the great failings of this area is our utter lack of creative, innovative or even generally good looking architecture. SF has the pyramid, Coit and little else. The South Bay's most architecturally interesting structures are Hangar 1 (built in 1933) and a pedestrian footbridge over 280 near Wolf Rd.

Apple is soon to change this landscape a bit, though I fear from the outside it'll look something like a rounded off version of The Pentagon.

Mountain View has this, and only this, opportunity to be the home to something lasting, innovative, creative and beautiful. To create not just for the area, but for the world, a touchstone for the confluence of art, science, sustainability, and utility and all while creating a place where Mountain View residents can recreate and live as well.

Combining sustainable and beautiful commercial structures that offer public spaces with housing and infrastructure in the North Bayshore area MUST happen. The undeniable answer to Mountain View's soaring real estate prices is to increase inventory. The best place to put that inventory is close to where it's residents will work, not along El Camino further clogging that already overloaded artery (and don't get me started on that insane VTA exclusive lane boondoggle).

Google & Linkedin and other N. Bayshore companies have already done great things in terms of mitigating the traffic impact of their employees. Each of those buses (that so many non-thinking people like to complain about) takes 65+ cars off the road and saves untold gallons of fuel & emissions. All to the benefit of you & I. By putting a percentage of those companies’ workforces within walking distance of their office space they will further alleviate the traffic impact on the S. Bay and reduce the need for vast expanses of paved parking areas around the commercial buildings.

The list of who is able to do something like this can be tallied on one hand. If Mountain View blows this opportunity, there will not be another and we'll be left, both literally and figuratively with a bunch of old, inefficient 80's era commercial buildings....and nobody to occupy them. Those companies ARE going to continue to grow. The question for our City Council is where?

The Mountain View City council needs to stop being the crotchety anti-growth "get off my lawn" body that it has been for years and embrace these projects. Embrace job growth. Embrace real-estate inventory growth.
Embrace innovation. Embrace creativity. Embrace sustainability. Embrace art & beauty in architecture.

3 people like this
Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Feb 28, 2015 at 1:26 pm

Time for "Sunset on Shoreline agency"? The 1969 quasi-RDA (ReDevelopment Agency) sucks more than 90% of general property taxes. RDA is temporarily sharing part of the general tax with schools and the county, but no guarantees in an economic downturn or when the contracts expire. Schools do get their school Bond (facilities) taxes in full. But - after more than 1/2 century - seems "Sunset on Shoreline" legislation is necessary. Permanent public benefits for education, county programs, and some less $$ for the city coffers.

3 people like this
Posted by MV Resident
a resident of another community
on Feb 28, 2015 at 2:03 pm

If there is no food court/restaurant pavilion in either the Google or Linked In areas that is going to be a real negative. They say retail. What kind of retail are they going to have there? I would like to hear more
about Linked In and Microsoft's proposed campuses.

3 people like this
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Feb 28, 2015 at 2:50 pm

All these buildings look nice, LinkedIn has a pretty good mix if residential is added. The kind of residential should be more adult centered who most likely will not have children anytime soon.

I think building a "high line" type link from MV to NBS, would make good green space above parking lots, roofs or the highway. If building on roof going lightweight is the key.

We have 2 school sites, Moffett Field, why not discuss with Google sub leasing some land for a school.. Stanford does it with PAUSD. Building a bike/ped bridge Whisman Road.

8 people like this
Posted by member001
a resident of Rex Manor
on Feb 28, 2015 at 6:08 pm

Another way to look at N. Bayshore development is that the residents and city council of Mountain View have a unique opportunity to play a leadership role in facilitating the future growth of several 'flagship' companies for Silicon Valley and the world. The technology that these companies represent may become the foundation of mankinds last great hope to save the human race from the ever-growing mess that we all have created/allowed (i.e., overpopulation effects, pollution, climate, financial corruption, cyber-crime, etc.). Technology, communication, finance and internet access (i.e., smartphone technology) may be the future pillars of our only hope for survival as a species. By supporting and embracing responsible, forwarding looking companies such as Google, LinkedIn, Inutit, Symantec, and all the start-ups, we send a message to the world that says, yes, Mountain View is proactively doing our part to help engineer mankinds way out of the upcoming chasm.

Perhaps we all need to look at the bigger picture and imagine what the world may look like in 10 or 15 years if we keep supporting unethical corporate America with our 401K's, our dirty electrical consumption, and our fossil fuel burning dumb vehicles. Maybe we should put some of our own wants and needs aside for a bit and consider the benefits of proactively supporting the growth of companies like Google and other companies that spearhead and develop things like solar partnerships, traffic reducing self-driving electric cars, robotics, smartphone technology, and fiber networks. And yes, urban traffic is bad everywhere on the planet, but self-driving cars, home delivery service, and better communications can and will make the situation much more tolerable. Let's help solve big problems by supporting the companies who have the drive, vision, and resources to facilitate effective, near-term solutions. Silicon Valley's (and Mountain View's) leadership position in fostering technology and enterprise has become the envy of the world, and indeed, it may actually be fundamental to the world's last best hope for survival. What's that worth?

14 people like this
Posted by Christopher Chiang
a resident of North Bayshore
on Mar 1, 2015 at 5:40 am

Why have a building cap at all? How does space in itself negatively impact anyone? Why not just have a strict traffic cap and perhaps caps on carbon footprint, waste production, light, and sound pollution? To pit good designs with exciting public benefits at Google and Linkedin against each other over a zero sum metric that doesn't directly address the real negative externalities of traffic and pollution limits everyone's best potential.

Building caps are imprecise in measuring employees given the changing office setups. If the true negative externalities are traffic and pollution, lets approve far beyond the cap if they can innovate even further and lower pollution and traffic beyond current numbers. I think they could handle the bold engineering challenge.

5 people like this
Posted by AC
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Mar 1, 2015 at 11:52 am

Build all the Space Huts you want but Mtn View does not have the infrastructure, resources or money to grow as fast as these companies. As everyone has noted the council must control expansion such that the roads school police and fire will not collapse with the added "Modernizations". A new building with 50,000 people friendly occupants never discussed the parking or road ways to deliver the new tenants. 100 buses are not the fix. A new parking lot is not the fix. The 101 is already overcrowded beyond the commute times. I will await the entire plan not just google wishes

14 people like this
Posted by Duh
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 1, 2015 at 12:24 pm

[Portion removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language]

"Why have a building cap at all? How does space in itself negatively impact anyone? Why not just have a strict traffic cap and perhaps caps on carbon footprint, waste production, light, and sound pollution?"

You should take a course in how democracy works. If we put in a traffic cap or other regulations that are supposed to limit negative impacts to the city, BUT allow your beloved ultra-ultra-high-density microhousing towers, what do you think will happen? 10,000 NEW VOTERS coming in to these crappy buildings you pushed on us will just vote the caps away, change zoning to put in more crap they want and damn any environmental concerns.

The people that say, "Oh, we'll allow thousands of people in E. Bayshore on the understanding that if they want schools or other services, they will have to cross 101 to get to it" are showing their ignorance. Or, in some cases, they are quite intelligent and are trying to fool us into approving this disastrous course of action.

[Portion removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language]

7 people like this
Posted by Duhmb
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Mar 2, 2015 at 10:42 am

And Duh, you should learn how to not be a [Portion removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language] on the internet, and also how to read the full text of a comment.


3 people like this
Posted by maggie t
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Mar 2, 2015 at 3:17 pm

Are there no American architects to provide a design such as this?

Also, when is the City Council going to vote on whether Mountain View can change its name to Google Land? When traveling no-one knows where Mountain View is but they sure know when you say 'Google!'

3 people like this
Posted by The solution
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 2, 2015 at 8:03 pm

I would like to give my opinion about the situation over in N. Shoreline and suggest a reasonable compromise.

[Portion removed due to disrespectful censorship by the Mountain Voice]

Doesn't this make sense? A deceptively simple solution, but incredibly effective. Let's ask the Council to consider it.

3 people like this
Posted by a great idea
a resident of Castro City
on Mar 2, 2015 at 8:44 pm

I have a great idea and would like to give my opinion about the situation in N. Shoreline and suggest a reasonable compromise.

[Portion removed due to disrespectful censorship by the Mountain Voice]

Doesn't this make sense? I think everyone wouldd agree.

3 people like this
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Mar 2, 2015 at 9:13 pm

Right now in planning stages so approval won't be happening right away. Right now plan for options other then solo commuters, cars and to reduce traffic.

We need to plan and build tranist links East to West. Improve links coming from the south and north.

We a 2 plus years before all this hits the city council.

3 people like this
Posted by New Engineering
a resident of another community
on Mar 3, 2015 at 2:08 pm

Are these stackable modules even legal? Is this just up to the city, or are there statewide construction design guidelines? Do they count as prefab buildings when you can dismantle them apparently so easily? What keeps them from falling apart in an earthquake? How do the elevators work? 5000 square feet is actually pretty small for a building footprint. How do you keep the fire code satisfied when they stack them side by side to make sure they have adequate separation and adequate exit access? How much spacing is required? Who will enforce that rule?

Seems like this whole proposal has a lot of issues beyond the density.

3 people like this
Posted by New Engineering
a resident of another community
on Mar 3, 2015 at 2:29 pm

I meant to say up there, do they count as TEMPORARY buildings when you can dismantle them so easily.

What is the ramification of having modules like this used in construction from safety, zoning, and urban planning standpoints?

Is this just another fad idea like the famous Google Barge? It seems to have some similarities.

Hmmm, will any of these be floating out on the bay? I mean, before the flood.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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