Critics Respond to BIG and Thomas Heatherwick’s Plans for New Googleplex

The ambitious proposed additions to the Internet giant’s headquarters have been met with skepticism and reservations.

Eleven years after Google opened its headquarters in Mountain View, California, the company has unveiled the first renderings for planned additions to the complex. Architect Bjarke Ingels from the Danish firm BIG and Thomas Heatherwick of Heatherwick Studio, who are responsible for the project’s design, appeared in a promotional video on Google’s official blog last week to extoll the project’s ecological virtues, among other things. But appraisals of the retro-futurist proposal have ranged from the starkly skeptical to the cautiously optimistic, at best. One thing the critics all agree on, however, are doubts as to the design’s feasibility.

In their concept, the designers entertain the idea that buildings don’t have to be torn down to adhere to the changing nature of work. Ingels and Heatherwick have designed lightweight structures that can be repositioned to create new spaces covered by a mesh of “glass fabric” whose structural viability has seemingly yet to be substantiated. The Guardian’s Oliver Wainwright described it as a “charming concept,” calling out both its good intentions and it’s difficulty of execution.

The new complex is an attempt by the company to rebuild their democratic reputation—Google ”has come under fire from local residents for generating vast amounts of traffic, jacking up property prices and giving little back in return,”  Wainwright commented. The idea is for Google employees to reengage with their neighbors, with lanes for cyclists and walkers, but not for cars. David Radcliffe, Vice President of Real Estate at Google, stated, “With trees, landscaping, cafes, and bike paths weaving through these structures, we aim to blur the distinction between our buildings and nature.” Critics dismiss the claim as implausible and situate the project in the social context of a city already “busting at the seams.”

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See some of the responses the proposal is getting on Twitter below:

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