Google’s new headquarters design takes transparency to new levels

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Google's new headquarters design takes transparency to new levels
This architectural rendering gives a glimpse at the aerial view of Google’s headquarters. // BIG & Heatherwick Studio

As an architect, what do you give the company that has everything? More to the point, what do you design for the company that is everywhere, that has become digitally ubiquitous?

If you’re Thomas Heatherwick and Bjarke Ingels, the rising-star architects tapped to design the new Google headquarters in Mountain View, you begin by covering all of your bases, philosophical, practical and technological.

The remarkably ambitious plans that Google released at the end of last week, for a hefty 3.4 million square feet of new office space distributed across four pieces of land between the 101 Freeway and the edge of San Francisco Bay, are communitarian, flexible, robotic and dipped in nostalgia all at the same time.

But plenty of architects might have pulled off the neat trick of making the new headquarters — to be made up of stackable office wings under a series of undulating glass canopies, all nestled beside flowing streams and community gardens — both monumental and neighborly.

What likely sealed the deal for Heatherwick and Ingels was something different: an appeal to Google’s conscience. ….