Since 2017, Facebook has stated its intention to establish a new British headquarters within the ongoing redevelopment of King’s Cross Central in London. The London Times speculates that architect Frank Gehry is currently in talks with the social media giant to fit out two adjoining buildings, currently designated T2 and T3, as well as a stand-alone building on a separate plot. The buildings T2 and T3 are designed by the British firm Bennetts Associates and are slated for completion in early 2019. In total, Facebook looks to add three buildings totaling more than 700,000 square feet to its London footprint. According to the Architects’ Journal, Gehry has designed numerous buildings for Facebook in the past, including its campus in Menlo Park and a ‘fit-out’ of Rathbone Square. The larger development surrounding Facebook's potential new headquarters, King’s Cross Central, is a 67-acre mixed-use redevelopment site encompassing fifty new buildings, 1,900 homes, twenty new streets, and twenty-six acres of public space. British developer Argent is leading the project and the master planners are Allies & Morrison and Porphyrios Associates. The transformation of King’s Cross from decrepit industrial district to emerging tech hub is influenced by its proximity to King’s Cross Station and St. Pancras International. These stations provide unrivaled rail transport access to international, regional and local transport networks. According to the Urban Land Institute, over 63 million passengers will pass through King’s Cross–St. Pancras by 2022, and approximately 45,000 Londoners will directly live or work in the district. Facebook is not the only tech giant shifting personnel to King’s Cross Central. In 2017, Google submitted plans for a nearly one million square foot headquarters in the sprawling redevelopment site. Designed by BIG and Heatherwick Studios, the 11-story building will extend horizontally approximately one thousand feet, a distance roughly on par with the height of London’s tallest building, the Shard.
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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.
The final touches have been put on London’s now-infamous Garden Bridge, designed by Heatherwick Studio with Arup and landscape designer Dan Pearson. The most recent renderings, released early this week, show exactly what the spaces on the bridge will look like by offering an up-close look at the garden-like landscaping. The Garden Bridge Trust (GBT) describes it as an “oasis of escapism.” Like New York’s High Line, the bridge is a collaboration between the architects and landscape designers, but Pearson said that “Thomas [Heatherwick] always described the garden as being the reason the bridge is there and we have a very generous space with which to make a garden.” This includes 27,000 square feet of planted green space, with ferns, grasses, 270 trees, 2,000 shrubs, hedging plants and climbers, more than 22,000 perennials, and 64,000 bulbs, according to GBT estimates. The new details of the plan include a conceptual framework laid out by Pearson and his team that includes five separate zones that make reference to the green spaces of London. They are: a marsh, a “cliff top landscape,” two woodlands, and a traditional, planted garden area. The design is the last step in unveiling the bridge to the public, which includes several skeptical parties. The approval process has been called into question, including the quick approval of former MP at the Department for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles. Others have questioned the design itself as unnecessary given the extreme need for bridges across the river in other, lower-income East London neighborhoods. Heatherwick has also been tapped to design a similar park that will hover above the Hudson River in New York. It remains to be seen if the Manhattan version will meet the same opposition as the London bridge. Part of the difference is that the Garden Bridge is being sold as a piece of public infrastructure that will connect two important parts of town, but is being heavily regulated including no bicycles, no protests, and no night walking, as Olly Wainwright has mentioned in the Guardian. Sam Jacob pointed out that the bridge raises many questions about public space in a city rapidly consumed as a territory of global capital and speculation. He probably would have preferred the city just build his version, which included the lyrics to Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind 98” etched into the stone balustrades. It's hard to fault Heatherwick for the political turmoil, however. He has delivered a beautiful piece of parkland, and we would have to believe that he is doing his best to mitigate the undercurrents of neoliberalism and inequality that are highlighted by the project. In a recent interview with AN, Heatherwick said, "I’m very influenced by the Jane Jacobs book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities. It almost made me fall in love with public-ness. With the bit we share together, and the subtle chemistry existing in the social interactions in public space." Sometimes the architect is hard to blame. [via gizmag]