Posts tagged with "Google":

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Google fills a historic timber hangar with its sleek new Los Angeles office

The Spruce Goose, a derogatory nickname for the Hughes H-4 Hercules, only flew once, but the largest plane ever built (entirely out of wood, to boot) continues to live on in pop culture ephemera. The plane has found a permanent home in Oregon’s Evergreen Aviation Museum, but the Los Angeles hangar where the Spruce Goose was built is getting a second shot at life. Under the timber hangar’s four-story-tall roof, ZGF Architects has completed a voluminous open office for Google that celebrates the building’s aeronautical heritage. Inside the 450,000-square-foot Playa Vista space, ZGF has restored the building’s historic Douglas fir “spine,” a series of curved ribs that support the ceiling, using wood salvaged from the hangar. Any leftover wood was used for furniture throughout the office. The Spruce Goose hangar was the largest timber building in the world when it was completed, and ZGF and engineers Arup mostly kept true to that legacy by scattering wooden finishes throughout and leaving the ceiling exposed. An enormous ship-like structure at the office’s core anchors the circulation routes and staircases to each floor, and according to ZGF, creates a “unique building-within-a-building design.” The hangar had largely laid dormant until Google took it over as a tenant, though in the past it’s served as a soundstage for films like Titanic and Avatar. In renovating such a cavernous space, ZGF punched skylights throughout the 750-foot-long building’s roof to maximize the amount of incoming daylight. The office space also features plenty of aviation-themed conference rooms, a fitness center, cafes, a 250-person event space, and aerial boardwalks that connect the first, second, and third floors. A “perception sculpture” made up of 2,800 hanging steel balls has been installed in the central atrium, that, when viewed from a specific angle, reveals the airy shape of the Spruce Goose plane. The references to Howard Hughes’s and the site’s place in aviation history is also celebrated throughout with placards and stories about the building, the Spruce Goose, Google, and L.A. Although Google has approximately 1,000 employees in the city, it’s unclear how many will work out of the Spruce Goose office. ZGF is no stranger to designing for tech giants and is currently part of the team renovating Microsoft's Redmond campus. “Los Angeles is an ideal home for Google’s newest office,” said L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, who was on hand for a tour of the building over the weekend. “Our city is a hub of innovation, creativity, and homegrown talent that shaped the aerospace industry in the past and that’s redefining the tech sector today. “Expanding Google’s presence in Playa Vista connects an historic building with our dynamic future, a site that will serve as a hotbed of scientific excellence and economic success for years to come.”
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Waymo faces tech hurdles as self-driving taxi deadline looms

As the technology propelling autonomous vehicles lurches forward, car companies have been struggling to make the leap between fundamental research and a marketable product. After an Uber test car struck and killed a woman in March of this year, the ride-sharing company abruptly shut down their self-driving program in Arizona. Now Waymo, the Alphabet-owned self-driving car company that had pledged it would launch a fleet of autonomous taxis in Arizona by the end of 2018, has reportedly been running into issues of their own. According to The Information, residents of Chandler, Arizona, a suburb of Phoenix, have become fed up with Waymo’s testing. The year-long process has seen cars stop without warning while making right turns at a T-shaped intersection, and sources have told The Information that the human safety drivers stationed in the passenger seat have routinely been forced to take manual control of the car. As with most other autonomous vehicle companies, Waymo uses safety drivers to take over when the car is in an unsafe or illegal position; the disengagement rate, or how frequently the human driver needs to take over per miles driven, is generally indicative of how well a self-driving car can move around on its own. The cars in Chandler have been deployed within a geo-fenced area–a location with GPS-defined boundaries–around Waymo’s office. Even in this small area, residents have complained that the abrupt stopping at intersections has caused them to nearly rear-end the test cars or to illegally drive around them. Waymo wouldn’t comment specifically on The Information’s report, but a spokesperson has said that Waymo’s cars are "continually learning" and that "safety remains its highest priority." The company hasn’t backed down from its ride-hailing plan either, though it may be some time before a truly autonomous taxi service hits the streets. Waymo plans to station a human chaperone in each taxi, and the cars will operate within a set area where the streets have been thoroughly mapped. Early adopters will (maybe) be able to hail a ride in Waymo’s fleet of autonomous Chrysler Pacifica minivans at the end of the year, but the company eventually hopes to roll out 20,000 electric Jaguar-built SUVs by 2020.
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San Francisco considers banning employee cafeterias

To the chagrin of downtown delis, pizza joints, and taquerias everywhere, tech companies in San Francisco have found yet another treasured urban tradition to disrupt: lunch.  Specifically, in recent years, as San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood has been transformed by the arrival of sizable offices for Twitter, Uber, Google, and others, street life in the area has fizzled. The culprit, critics say, are the free lunches often provided by tech companies to their employees, one of the many perks used to lure new hires and build team morale. A potential side effect, however, is that office workers no longer go out to eat as often as in the past, and the shift is threatening to upend the livelihoods of businesses that have traditionally catered to the nine-to-five crowd. In response, San Francisco Supervisors Aaron Peskin and Ahsha Safaí have introduced a new city ordinance that would ban start-up style “employee cafeterias” from new office developments. The bill would aim to curb employers from providing free or tax-free food to their workers on a regular basis but would have no effect on the 51 cafeterias currently in operation across the city. Safaí told The San Francisco Chronicle that the ban was about instigating a cultural shift, adding, “This is about getting people out of their office, interacting with the community and adding to the vibrancy of the community.” In a statement, Peskin explained the motion would also hold companies accountable for the promises they made while pursuing approvals from the city. He said, "Many of these companies touted the boost their employees would have on our local economy, only to provide everything from round-the-clock gourmet catering to dry-cleaning on-site.” The measure, if passed, would be the second such initiative in the region, following a precedent set by nearby Mountain View. There, the municipality forbade Facebook from subsidizing employee meals as part of a recent expansion in a bid to get the tech company to engage economically with the local community.  Michael Kasperzak, the former Mountain View mayor who helped craft the 2014 ordinance told The Chronicle, “It really was geared more around trying to make sure we didn’t have 400,000 square feet of office space with people that never left the building.”

The initiative has not been expanded to include other businesses yet, but could potentially apply to a new 595,000-square-foot, tent-like headquarters Google, BIG, and Heatherwick Studio are planning in the city. There, designers have proactively included plans for publicly-accessible cafes and dining areas that would be shared with Google employees. 

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors is due to take up its proposed ban later this year. 
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Thom Mayne’s mentoring program is featured in showcase at Pratt

The educational mentorship program spearheaded by Morphosis principal and co-founder Thom Mayne headed into its third semester this year. For sixth graders at Hall Elementary School in Bridgeport, Connecticut, the Thom Mayne Young Architects program was a chance to receive an architectural education and access to design software via after-school classes led by Pratt Institute architecture students. Tonight, Mayne himself will host a closing reception of their final projects from last semester at Pratt Institute's Higgins Hall, beginning at 6pm. Founded in 2017, the Thom Mayne Young Architects program was spurred by Mayne's participation in President Barack Obama's Committee on the Arts and Humanities. Mayne partnered with TurnAround Arts, a 2012 program launched by Michelle Obama and the president's committee to bring arts education to the bottom five percent performing public schools, which includes Hall Elementary. The sixth grade students have been working on a site close to home–their own classrooms. Their design prompt is to create a "beautification proposal" for their classrooms. In the course of the 12-week program, students learn about design thinking, architectural design fundamentals and computer design, aided by the donation of Pixelbook laptops loaded with design software by Google. Beyond design skills, the program also includes lessons about photo editing, branding, marketing, and budgeting. The exhibit, which opened on February 12, closes on Saturday, February 17.  
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Google and BIG propose one million square feet of offices in Sunnyvale

Google has been on an expansion tear lately, and has announced plans to follow their recently approved Mountain View, California housing development with a new campus in neighboring Sunnyvale. The one-million-square-foot project will be called Caribbean, and sees Google teaming up with Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) yet again for a pair of terraced office buildings for up to 4,500 employees. The city of Sunnyvale is no stranger to Google, as the tech giant has been consolidating land purchases throughout the year and most recently paid $21 million for a five-acre plot in the Moffet Park area on December 22nd. BIG and Google are also familiar partners, as the firm has been involved with both the Charleston East campus and speculative designs for the northern Mountain View residential project. Their latest collaboration will involve two five-story office buildings, each featuring green roofs with paths that gently zigzag atop stepped floors. Each building will connect these paths with the ground level and encourage the building’s melding with the street. Renderings show that these paths could be used for a variety of activities, from biking to skating, and that any floor of each building should be accessible from outside. Although each office building will be clad in a floor-to-ceiling glass curtain wall, they differ slightly in their typology. While one is boxier, with easily distinguishable steps and clearly defined plazas and gathering areas, the other resembles a cascading hillscape with organically defined curves and valleys. From the ground level, the offices’ landscaped terraces clearly evoke cliff faces or natural slopes. The future 200 West Caribbean Drive will be 505,000 square feet, while the nearby 100 West Caribbean Drive will be slightly larger at 538,000square feet. Other than BIG, Clive Wilkinson Architects has been tapped to design the interiors, while OLIN Landscape Architects will be responsible for the landscape design. A project this large will require a number of approvals from the Sunnyvale city government, and the project is only just beginning to work its way through the process. Google expects to move employees into the finished buildings in 2021. Of note is that the city has mandated that all of the utilities, sewage systems, hydrants and streetlights will need to be relocated and upgraded, which will falls under the city of Sunnyvale’s design guidelines.
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A tiny start-up partners with Peterbilt to roll out self-driving big rigs

As of 2015, over 70 percent of all freight transported in the U.S. was moved by truck. That represents a whopping $726 billion in gross revenues from trucking alone, and each year, trucks haul everything from consumer goods to livestock over billions of miles in the United States. All of those numbers are growing—so much so, that according to the American Trucking Associations, the industry is running into a major driver shortage. Long hours, days away from home, and the stress of driving 80,000 pounds at 70 miles per hour is not for everyone, but one company is hoping to make the task easier through automation. Embark, a small startup based in Silicon Valley, is led by a number of engineering school dropouts. Its goal is to develop affordable semi-autonomous semis using neural-net–based deep learning technology. By developing hardware that can be fitted onto existing truck models, and software that learns as it goes, Embark has quickly and cheaply developed some of the most promising autonomous vehicles in the world. “Analyzing terabyte upon terabyte of real-world data, Embark’s DNNs have learned how to see through glare, fog, and darkness on their own,” said Alex Rodrigues, CEO and co-founder of Embark, in a statement that coincided with the introduction of the technology this spring. “We’ve programmed them with a set of rules to help safely navigate most situations, safely learn from the unexpected, and how to apply that experience to new situations going forward.” Rather than try to replace drivers, or redesign the trucks or roads, Embark is focusing on working with what already exists. Collaborating with Texas-based truck manufacturer Peterbilt, Embark is retrofitting the popular 579 semi models with sensors cameras and computers that can read existing roads and take over driving tasks from long-haul drivers. When the trucks must navigate more complex urban settings, the human driver takes back command. This focus on solving the open-road problem, instead of the entire range of driving situations, has streamlined the development process. Currently Embark is one of only three companies permitted to test autonomous 18-wheeler semis on the highways of Nevada (the other two companies being Freightliner and Uber). With the Peterbilt collaboration and a recent announcement of $15 million in additional financing, Embark has become one of the leaders in the race to automate transportation. While Google, Tesla, and a slew of other car companies target the finicky consumer market, Embark has its sights squarely on a market struggling to keep up with demand. With hundreds of billions of dollars at stake, and billions of pounds of freight being moved, it seems only likely that it will be the self-driving truck, not sports car, that we will be seeing on the road sooner rather than later.  
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Google wins approval in Mountain View for sweeping housing plans

The Mountain View, California, city council unanimously voted on Tuesday to approve a redevelopment plan that would give Google the power to build up to almost 10,000 residential units near its new Charleston East campus, and they won’t be restricted solely to Google employees. The approval paves the way for Google to build alongside its new Charleston East campus, designed by a team of Heatherwick Studios, Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), and Hargreaves Jones Landscape Architecture, which expects to complete construction by 2019. Besides bringing 3.6 million square feet of office space and the aforementioned residential buildings to the North Bayshore neighborhood, Google and other outside developers will be allowed to construct a high-density, mixed-use neighborhood in an area stymied by a lack of new housing. Rising above than the low-slung suburban office park surrounding the new site, the new development will feature office towers up to eight stories, and residential buildings up to 15 stories tall. Although the city, Google, and other interested developers still need to put together a master plan detailing the project’s timeline, it’s expected that the project will claim up to 150 acres for residential use. Of the 9,850 units allowed by the new measure, developers are shooting to keep 70 percent of the units as one bedrooms or studios, with 20 percent of the total set aside as affordable housing. Planners have already begun envisioning the new neighborhoods that the ordinance would create, naming them Joaquin, Shorebird and Pear. Overall it’s expected that the redevelopment will bring more office space, retail and entertainment options to a previously underdeveloped area. At the Tuesday meeting, vice mayor Lenny Siegel said the project would help address the Bay Area’s housing crisis. “This is a cutting edge plan that sets a standard,” said Siegel. “Not just for the Bay Area, but for the rest of the country.” The massive project will still need to face further rounds of public approval before being finalized, but previously released renderings by Google provides some indication of how the tech giant will build out their adjacent campus. A distinctive two story, tent-like structure with a solar panel-clad canopy will occupy 595,000 square feet, with the ground floor open to the public. The second floor will hold Google office space, and both areas will be peppered with interior courtyards designed to act as cores for socializing. It's not yet clear how the newly-formed neighborhoods will link with the company's peaked office space. The recent city council approval is only the first step in a long line of public approvals that the development will need to clear before becoming a reality. While no exact estimates of how long the project will take, or how much it could cost, have been revealed yet, Siegel has said that it may take up to a decade to fully realize.
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Google’s Sidewalk Labs emerges as top contender for Toronto waterfront project

What happens when urban planning decisions fall into the hands of tech companies? This is a question that has been asked with increasing frequency as driverless cars, data-driven urban interventions, and "smart cities" have insinuated themselves into the daily news cycle. This week, it was reported that Sidewalk Labs, an urban innovation startup under Google's parent company Alphabet, has emerged as the top contender to tackle a major new urban development project in Canada. Waterfront Toronto, a government-funded corporation operating in of Canada's most populous city, has selected Sidewalks Labs for Quayside, a project which aims to rework 12 acres along Old Toronto's inner harbor into mixed-use space including residential development, of which 20 percent must be affordable. Quayside is part of Toronto Waterfront's mission to adapt nearly 1,977 acres around the city's port to modern use. Waterfront Toronto has been upfront about their tech-focused approach to the redevelopment project. In the competition's RFP, they announced the project was to be "a test bed for how we construct the future city" focused on "forward-thinking urban design and new technologies to create people-first neighborhoods." Sidewalk Labs seems to match these requirements, with projects like the Link NYC wi-fi kiosks now dotting the streets of New York's five boroughs, which is managed by a new Sidewalk-managed company called Intersection. Much like their (and Google's) parent company Alphabet Inc., one of Sidewalk's approaches has been to function as a kind of business incubator for organizations dealing with topic-specific urban interventions. Among their other projects, Cityblock Health addresses urban space as a determinant for public health and Semaphore Lab prototypes adaptive traffic lights. Sidewalk's slogan, "We're reimagining cities from the internet up," may provoke unease among urban planners or socially-minded architects – language is telling, and this catchphrase is notably people-less. Even when addressing issues like affordable housing, urban congestion, and health, solutions based on predictive algorithms rather than human experience can engender healthy skepticism. Waterfront Toronto, now in a self-imposed "blackout period" as they finalize the process, expects to make a formal announcement sometime this fall. The board has a scheduled meeting on October 20th to decide on the staff recommendation.
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Heatherwick’s London bridge falls, but his London collaboration with BIG gets approval

This week, designer Thomas Heatherwick saw his studio's Garden Bridge project for London officially scrapped as the trust backing it closed down. However, in a turn of fortune, Heatherwick Studio, which is working alongside the London office of Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) has been given the green light for a design for Google's headquarters at King’s Cross. After a highly controversial process, the Garden Bridge, which was initially backed by former London Mayor Boris Johnson, never came to fruition after incumbent Mayor Sadiq Kahn withdrew tax payer–backed financial support for it. Prior to this stage, some $48 million had been plowed into the project which was touted to cost more than $260 million. "Sadly, we're winding up. Without backing from [the Mayor of London] we cannot make the dream of the Garden Bridge a reality," tweeted the Garden Bridge Trust earlier this week. Others, notably the ardent opposition Twitter handle "Folly for London," weren't quite so dismayed. Bad news, it seems, had a habit of following Heatherwick around. In January, Khan canceled orders on the double-decker London bus he designed due to costs. In March, his Pier 55 project—a 2.75-acre garden over New York’s Hudson River— was stopped by a federal court ruling, though it received a reprieve in June. More solidly good news, though, came from the London borough of Camden where Heatherwick Studio and BIG's Google headquarters scheme was approved this week. The 869,900-square-foot building occupies a slender site by Kings Cross railway station, following the tracks down toward a canal. Hosting more than 5,000 employees—and capable of housing up to 7,000—Google's $780 million new headquarters neighbors the David Chipperfield–designed One Pancras Square which boasts Aldo Rossi overtones with its moulded cast iron columns. The clunky classicalism of that building is not emulated by BIG and Heatherwick's work, and in further contrast, the Google headquarter's design emphasizes its horizontality through timber mullions which double-up as louvres. The ground level will house retail and the eleventh floor will support a heavily-vegetated green roof. An 82-foot swimming pool and 660-foot running track will also feature within the scheme. Speaking to Richard Waite of the Architects' Journal (AJ), Heatherwick—whose studio is based out of Kings Cross—said, "Strong support for an ambitious building in an important part of the city is more proof that London is not afraid of its future. We’re excited to start building." Bjarke Ingels, meanwhile added: "The unanimous planning approval of our first project in the U.K. is obviously great for us and our London office—but more importantly Kings Cross will get a very lively new neighbor and the U.K. Googlers will finally be united." Across the pond, Heatherwick and Ingels are also collaborating on another Google project, the tech giant's Charleston East campus, in Mountain View, California. (It should be noted that Google's main headquarters will remain in Mountain View; the Heatherwick and BIG collaboration is just a London headquarters.)
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Zaha Hadid gets her own Google Doodle

In commemoration of the 13th anniversary of Zaha Hadid winning the Pritzker Prize, the late, Iraqi-born architect has been given a day on the front page of Google. She is shown in front of Heydar Aliyev Center in Baku, Azerbaijan, which she and her team designed in 2014. Hadid has been one of the most popular architects in recent decades, from her early paintings and work at the AA with Rem Koolhaas, to her more recent stardom that has produced some of the most dramatic buildings of the late 20th and early 21st century. Her Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art in Cincinnati, Ohio and the Vitra Fire Station were early signs of the architect's immense talent, while more recently the Heydar Aliyev Center and the Guangzhou Opera House have cemented her legacy as a groundbreaking, visionary architect. Google's Doodle-knighthood of Hadid adds her to a growing list of architects who have been doodled, including Mies van der Rohe, Kenzo Tange, George Gilbert Scott, and Christopher Wren.
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BIG and Heatherwick Studios unveil new Google campus renderings

Heatherwick Studios, Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), and Hargreaves Jones Landscape Architecture have revealed new renderings and designs for the firms’ Google Charleston East campus in Mountain View, California. The renderings, shared via public documents made available by the municipality in advance of a public meeting scheduled for March 7th to discuss the plans and first reported by 9to5Google, showcase a distinctive, tent-shaped structure located on a large, landscaped site.   The canopy is square-shaped in plan and rises gently out of the tree-lined site, rising to a peak of 111 feet above grade. The structure measures 576 feet on each side and is configured as a solar panel-clad canopy hung from a gridded field of steel support columns. The structure’s cascading roof structure is designed to be supported by structurally glazed clerestory walls that have been treated to minimize their impact on local bird populations and are designed to bring diffuse light into the office areas. The 595,000-square-foot, two-story structure is bisected by an interior 15,300-square-foot pedestrian path that turns into a small public square at the center of the building. That path is lined on one end with retail. Retail functions appear again surrounding the central square, which totals 10,000 square feet in all. These areas connect to an expansive, landscaped site that is mostly accessible to the general public and connects to the city’s expansive network of greenways and pedestrian paths known as the Green Loop. According to other documents shared by the municipality, the project will require the removal of 196 heritage trees from the site. As part of a California Environmental Quality Act compliance, those trees are being replaced with 392 new specimens. The publically-accessible ground floor of the structure and the site will be open to the public during daylight hours. The non-public areas along the ground floor will be laboratory spaces, quasi-public assembly areas, and shared employee leisure areas. The second floor of the structure will contain Google’s offices. The floorplates of both levels are punctured throughout with interior courtyards that will bring light into the work areas and also act as circulation cores. The project has yet to be approved by Mountain View officials. Once approved, the designers expect the project to be completed in roughly 30 months.
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Pier 57 set to receive $225 million boost from PNC Bank

Pier 57, recently renamed the "SuperPier," has received a $225 million loan from PNC Bank, according to a source close to the Commercial Observer. The $350-million project by RXR Realty and partner Youngwoo & Associates is set restore this old shipping and bus terminal. 560,000 square-feet of mixed-used development will be the result. Seth Pinksy of RXR told the Commercial Observer that they were "still finalizing terms and agreements with all of the relevant parties." Around 480,000 square-feet has already been set aside for office blocks. Google has managed to secure 250,000 square-feet of that space when it signed a 15-year lease, as reported by the Wall Street Journal. So far, there's no word on who'll be Google's neighbors. A food market run by celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain will occupy 100,000 square-feet. Speaking to The New York Times, Bourdain said the food hall will feel like "an Asian night market." In addition, 80,000 square-feet will make up the public park that will housed on top of the pier while promenades on which the public can walk will take up 34,000 square-feet of the structure.