Following their collaboration to design Google’s new campus in California, Heatherwick Studio and BIG were commissioned to create the company’s new headquarters in London.
The team’s focus was not just to make special large workspaces but to find an architectural language that could fit into the local community of King’s Cross and an intense urban context. The studio has a close relationship with King’s Cross which has been its home for more than 15 years and where it is has also designed a new shopping quarter.
The area is a fascinating collision of diverse building types and spaces, of massive railway stations, roads, canals and other infrastructure all lay-ered up to create the most connected point in London. Influenced by these surroundings the team chose to treat the project like a piece of infrastructure too, made from a family of interchangeable elements and with a similar quality of flexibility as old industrial buildings which can be re-used in many ways over time. Rather than a typical office tower the unusual site called for a 330 metres long building; as long as The Shard is tall.
To respond to this particularity and local context the main floors of workspace are ex-pressed as a single confident volume, like the nearby train sheds. However, for the project to be inter-esting enough at the ground level, where it stretches the entire length of a pedestrianized boulevard, the mass is lifted two storeys above the street to allow a family of many different smaller retail build-ings to be built underneath that create variety and fascination at a human scale.
For a company whose fame comes from a virtual world of data this project is part of it engaging in the public physical world in a new way. Internally the workplace, with its triple height ceilings, is designed to bring people together and create connectedness and opportunities for chance encounters. Externally the panoramic sculpted roof garden will give unprecedented views to the city around and at the ground the street will come alive in unexpected ways.
Photo credits: Heatherwick Studio