Tech giants compete for architectural dominance

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Architectural rendering of Google's plan for the Mountain View headquarters. (BIG and Heatherwick Studio)

There is an unexpected love affair going on in Silicon Valley. As tech titans like Google, Facebook and Apple jockey for supremacy in the ever-changing digital age, they have partnered with the most eminent architects of our time to reinvent the world in which we work and live.

Google recently commissioned world-renowned European architects Thomas Heatherwick and Bjarke Ingels to design its new corporate headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., following in the footsteps of other tech companies who are transforming the San Francisco Bay Area into a series of architectural landmarks.

Facebook commissioned Frank Gehry—known for his deconstructivist designs including Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles—for its revamped Palo Alto headquarters, which is scheduled to open this spring. Apple is spending an estimated $5 billion on its futuristic new headquarters and has commissioned high-profile architect Norman Foster for the building slated to open by the end of 2016.

And while Facebook’s social platform has connected friends worldwide and Apple’s computers and phones have made technology more accessible than ever, these multi-billion dollar architectural projects are for employees only.

But Google is upping the stakes.

“This project is about much more than just office space; it’s about doing more with the local community as well,” David Radcliffe, Google’s Vice President of Real Estate, wrote in a recent blog post.

As part of Heatherwick’s and Ingel’s proposed design, Google is including bike paths for civilians, retail opportunities for local businesses and aims to transform the sea of parking around Google’s current headquarters into a natural landscape. The plot is next to an ecologically sensitive area, and the new headquarters will restore waterways to the bay and create natural habitats for the surrounding flora and fauna. The proposed campus incorporates a network of translucent canopies and greenhouse-like structures, which can easily be moved as the company invests in new product areas.

While tech companies have taken over and transformed Silicon Valley, Google continues to be the foremost innovator by incorporating Mountain View’s community into its latest architectural endeavor.

As nearby LinkedIn and Microsoft also want to rebuild their Silicon Valley campuses, there is a clear battle among tech companies for office-building glory that rivals the digital crusade for Internet dominance. But in technology’s all-important game of reputation, Google continues to beat out Apple and Facebook in overall favorability as a company. And while it seems that Silicon Valley has started to place priorities in property investment and elite architectural commissions, Google’s grandiose and community-based design only bolsters its fast-tracked journey to monopolizing the technology industry.

Architectural rendering of  Google's plan for the Mountain View headquarters. (BIG and Heatherwick Studio)
Architectural rendering of Google’s plan for the Mountain View headquarters. (BIG and Heatherwick Studio)

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