“A Truman Show-Style Nightmare”? Critics React to BIG and Heatherwick’s Designs for Google

© Google / BIG / Heatherwick Studio

In their designs for Google’s new headquarters, released last week amid much excitement, Bjarke Ingels and Thomas Heatherwick have taken cues from the utopian visions of the past to create a radical solution for the sprawling tech campus in Mountain View, California. Citing the lack of identifiable in the technology sector, a promotional video on Google’s own blog reveals how the company plans to embrace nature, community, and flexibility with the new scheme.

Chief among the company’s concerns was creating a building capable of adapting to future uses in addition to serving as a neighborhood-enhancing environment to welcome visitors from the surrounding community. As with any news related to Google, the design has already attracted the attention of the media – read on after the break for our rundown of the most salient reviews so far.

See BIG & Heatherwick’s Design for Google’s California Headquarters

© Google / BIG / Heatherwick Studio

Images have been unveiled of BIG and Heatherwick Studio’s design for Google’s Mountain View headquarters. The plan, submitted to city council today, proposes to redevelop and expand the company’s home office with a series of lightweight canopy-like structures organized within a flexible landscape of bicycle paths and commercial opportunities for local companies. 

“It’s the first time we’ll design and build from scratch and we hope these plans by Bjarke Ingels at BIG and at Heatherwick Studio will lead to a better way of working,” says Google. “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.”

A video about the design and a statement from Bjarke Ingels and Thomas Heatherwick, after the break. 

Google Taps BIG and Heatherwick to Design New California Headquarters

Image: Bjarke Ingels and Thomas Heatherwick

The City of Mountain View is expected to receive a massive proposal from the city’s largest employer; reports confirm that Google has enlisted Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) and Heatherwick Studio to its new California headquarters. With the few details released, it is unclear if the proposal plans to update the company’s existing 3.1 million-square-foot Googleplex or replace it. However, as the New York Times reports, the proposal will boast a “series of canopy-like buildings” on a campus organized around bicycle and pedestrian paths.

This means Google is now joining a list of powerful corporations who have enlisted world-renowned architects to design their California headquarters, including Apple’s Foster + Partners-designed “spaceship” and Facebook’s Gehry-Esque 10-acre “room.” If approved, Google will shift its focus on new housing, ensuring there is enough living space within Mountain View to accommodate its growing workforce (a topic of concern for many residents).

The proposal will be submitted to the city this Friday. Take a look at the company’s existing Mountain View headquarters, after the break.

22 Websites You Didn’t Know Were Useful to Architects

Being an architect is hard. At times, you’re expected to act as everything from a graphic designer to a handyman (or woman), from a data scientist to a writer, or from a computer programmer to a public speaker. And, you’re expected to do all these things on little to no sleep and for a much lower wage than you’re probably worth. But don’t fear – the internet is here to help (it’s not just a place to procrastinate, you know).

We’ve collected 22 free websites that can help you in the never ending quests for efficiency, knowledge and good taste. Whether you’re selecting the perfect color scheme for a presentation or graph, tracking the price of your next purchase, solving technical problems or simply trying to balance your sleep and caffeine intake, there’s something in this list to help everyone.

Google Earth Pro Is Now Free

© Earth Pro

Google Earth Pro has dropped its $399 yearly subscription and is now freely available to all. Beyond providing imagery, detailed maps, terrain and 3D building models of the world, Google Earth’s pro-version is particularly convenient for project planning and research; unlike its standard , Pro allows users to print images at 4800×3200, import and pin thousands of addresses onto the map at once, capture HD videos of what’s on screen, and easily measure distances and areas with polygons, circles and more, rather than with just lines and paths. Download it for free and fill out a quick form to unlock its Pro features.

Want a Virtual Reality Headset? Make One For Almost Nothing With Google Cardboard

© Google via the Google Cardboard Website

One of the most hyped stories in the world of is the development of powerful, affordable virtual reality headsets for the commercial market. For architects, the ability to immerse yourself in an imaginary world is an enticing prospect, for both professional and recreational uses – but at $200 and upwards for what is still a product under development, devices like Oculus Rift are not for the faint-hearted.

But now Google, ever the ambassador for the more fiscally-cautious tech junkie, has a solution that won’t break the bank. Their contribution to the emerging market is “Google Cardboard,” which creates a simple headset from an Android-powered smartphone and – you guessed it – some cardboard. Read on to find out how it works.

A+U Interviews Co-Founders of Google[x] Startup, Flux

A+u magazine was recently granted an exclusive interview with the co-founders of Flux, the Google[x] startup whose mission is to harness data to automate architectural and urban . The discussion is one of 14 essays and interviews from leading urban technologists in the current November issue, Data-Driven Cities.

“We began our exploration with the premise that buildings and the sustainability of our modern lifestyle are deeply intertwined. In addition, buildings – more specifically, housing – is an issue of human dignity. We wanted to find ways to apply Google-scale thinking to tackle these important issues,” says co-founder Nicholas Chim in the interview.

Read on after the break for ’s full interview with Flux co-founders, Nicholas Chim and Michelle Kaufmann. And check out the November issue of , available in digital and print editions, which features new essays by Carlo Ratti (MIT), Dan Hill (City of Sound), Alastair Parvin (Wikihouse) and more.

Google Launches New Virtual Experience that Takes You Inside Alvar Aalto’s Works

Courtesy of Foundation

The Alvar Aalto Foundation has begun a collaborative project with Google to make Aalto buildings even more accessible to the public. Using Google’s revolutionary Street View navigation tool, along with its virtual Cultural Institute, the project offers a look inside some of Aalto’s most iconic works of . Learn more about this initiative and see the virtual journey for yourself after the break.

SketchUp 2014 Incorporates BIM Capabilities

Courtesy of Trimble

Trimble Buildings Group have recently released SketchUp 2014, the latest version of its 3D modelling platform for architects, engineers, and construction professionals. With “more than 30 million unique activations in the past year”, is claimed to be the most widely used 3D modeling software in the world today. The latest incarnation of the simple tool features a new 3D Warehouse and some interesting integrations into the world of Building Information Modelling (BIM).

The Pros & Cons of Living With Google

’s New Campus / NBBJ. Image Courtesy of NBBJ

“Some days it feels like Google is taking over the world.” In an article for The Verge Sean Hollister investigates how Google now represents one tenth of Mountain View, the city which hosts the company’s Californian headquarters. Having one of the world’s largest tech companies on their doorstep is a cause of concern for residents, some of whom are now referring to their home as Googleville. Having just bought the lease for a former military airport some city council members are seeing the expansionist move as a step too far – read the article in full here.

VIDEO: A Mobile Phone That Maps Your World

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Johnny Lee, a project leader in the Advanced Technology and Projects group at Google, wants our phones to experience the world more like we do: “we are physical beings that live in a 3D world, yet mobile devices today assume that the physical world ends at the boundaries of the screen”, he says – which is why his team has been working on Project Tango, a mobile phone which uses movement and depth sensors to build a 3D model of the space around it.

Project Tango brings a whole new dimension (the third one) to what we could potentially do with our phones: imagine creating a 30 second model to take away from a site visit, for example, or using augmented reality to show a or an installation in situ, navigable in real time. Currently, Google is in the process of distributing 200 prototypes to app developers, who will hopefully help it realize this tremendous potential.

LEGO®, Chrome Launch Virtual LEGO Game (Prepare for Procrastination)

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Architects and ® Bricks. For many, it was love at first sight.However, playing with at the office – fun as it may be – is not exactly something you can justify doing (at least not everyday).

Well, no more. For your procrastination pleasure, Chrome and LEGO® have paired up and created “Build With Chrome,” a game that lets you play with LEGO online. Good-bye productivity.

Learn more about “Build With Chrome,” after the break..

Why Workspaces are Obsessed with the Open Plan

NBBJ’s tri-sphere biodome planned for Amazon’s downtown Seattle headquarters. Image Courtesy of NBBJ

In a brilliant article for Der Spiegel, “The New Monuments to Digital Domination,” writer Thomas Schulz not only rounds up our reigning tech giants’ oddly-shaped – from Apple’s “spaceship” to Amazon’s “biodomes” - but also pinpoints what they have in common: horizontality. And why? Because an “open creative playground” without boundaries (like floors or walls) is “the perfect ideas factory: the ideal spatial environment for optimally productive digital workers who continuously churn out world-changing innovations.” And while this means that privacy has gone out these workspaces’ proverbial windows, Schulz isn’t too surprised – after all, “people have no right to a private life in the digital age.” Check out this must-read article here.

GOOGLE MADRID HQ / Jump Studios

© Daniel Malhão

Architects: Jump Studios
Location: , Spain
Architect In Charge:
Managing Director: Simon Jordan
Creative Director: Shaun Fernandes
Project Architect / Lisbon Office Head: Laszlo Varga
Year: 2013
Photographs: Daniel Malhão

Gensler, LOT-EK to Design Google’s Showroom of Floating Shipping Containers

© James Martin/CNET

UPDATE: The SF Gate reports that the architects of the Google Barge have now been revealed to be San Francisco-based firm Gensler and New York-based LOT-EK, a firm with experience adapting shipping containers for retail design. 

A mysterious construction project in the San Francisco Bay has been making waves for the past couple of weeks. Moored off Treasure Island, locals apparently refer to it as ‘the secret project’ – and, until now, that’s about as much as was known about it.

Despite months of rumors and complete radio silence from Google, spokespeople have finally released a statement on the project, stating: “Google Barge … A floating data center? A wild party boat? A barge housing the last remaining dinosaur? Sadly, none of the above. Although it’s still early days and things may change, we’re exploring using the barge as an interactive space where people can learn about new .”

While it’s a shame about the dinosaur, Google’s expansion into technology retail is possibly even more intriguing, as it’s entirely new turf for the company: retail .

More info and an artist’s rendering of what the barge could look like, after the break…

ArchDaily’s Google Glass Experiment

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When Google Glass launched, we wondered how this wearable augmented reality device could add a whole other dimension to the consumption of architectural publications, by bringing the experience of space, matter, and light to our screens.

In our field, the experience is very important, and it is a dimension that hasn’t been able to be reproduced in its entirety through traditional media (plans, 2D or even 3D models). Attempts to make immersive panoramas or to embrace video have expanded the potential for representation, but not in a significant way. And this is why travel is a vital asset for the architect.

Imagine finally experiencing the approach to the Parthenon like Le Corbusier did almost a century ago. Imagine a tour broadcast by the architects of a project themselves, with the possibility for instant reader feedback in order to discuss a particular moment inside the building. 

is about to release a new version of their device, and we had the chance to use it while walking around the PUC Design School by Sebastian Irarrazaval. Here’s a short video of what we recorded with the device; just imagine how this very same video would be when overlays the physical, built world you’re experiencing with virtual information from around the web. 

And stay tuned for more videos!! 

Secret Google Project Could Transform Construction Industry

Google’s HQ, the Googleplex, in Moutain View, . Google X is a secret facility run by Google located about a half mile from here. Image Courtesy of ArchDaily Instagram Feed (@archdaily)

Google’s secret development department, Google X (responsible for Google’s very cool, although non-core initiatives, such as Google Glass and driverless cars) is reportedly working on a new technology that could transform the construction industry – as well as architecture itself. It goes by the name of “Genie.”

According to Globes, a report from Genie’s development team, addressed to Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, describes the invention as a cloud-based collaboration platform with “planning applications to help architects and engineers in the design process, especially for skyscrapers and large buildings. The platform includes planning tools of expert architects and engineers and advance analytics and simulation tools.”

The report also emphasized Genie’s potential to transform the conservative construction industry, one of the most profitable and the most wasteful, by making it more efficient and environmentally friendly at the level of design, construction, and maintenance. The report suggests the invention could save 30-50% in construction costs and 30-50% of the spent between planning and market; moreover, it could generate $120 billion a year.

Google Timelapse Reveals Effects of Rapid Urbanization

This satellite image of Bolivia shows dramatic deforestation in the Amazon Basin. Courtesy of .

NASA, in cooperation with TIME and Google, has unveiled startling timelapse images of Earth from orbit collected by ’s Landsat program since 1984. This program, created not for spycraft but for monitoring the way in which humans are rapidly altering the surface of the planet, consists of eight satellites that have collected millions of pictures in the course of two generations. When sifted through, cleaned up and stitched together, these pictures come together to create a high-definition slideshow that reveals some of the drastic changes our planet is undergoing – most notably through widespread urbanization.