To transform a collection of tilt-up concrete buildings on its larger Mountain View campus, Google invited Studio Sarah Willmer Architecture in partnership with Sidell Pakravan Architects, to create design solutions for this 90,000 SF refresh. The updated buildings respond to the context of the Shorebird Campus and create a distinct and welcoming identity for the users—a group of innovative software and hardware engineers. The design team’s opportunity was to distinguish the space from the thousands of square feet of design innovation found at other Google buildings.
From maximizing workstation count (650 desks) to the need for many conference rooms, lounges, and labs, the opportunity for architectural intervention was limited. The trio of existing buildings were dark and disorganized. To solve these various needs, the architects responded with a bold formal strategy, dubbed the Linking Path and Caterpillar. Clad in a luminous fabric, the Caterpillar is a 350 foot long occupiable volume. It has a strong physical presence as it stretches across all 3 buildings, linking the complex program and acting as a way finding device.
Organizing the Space
The Caterpillar stands out from all adjacent spaces. More than a passageway, this multifunctional element organizes spaces, creating nodes of interaction for team members and mediating noise between conference rooms and workstations.
The caterpillar, made from translucent white fabric stretched across a custom metal frame, acts as a thickened threshold between the creative chaos of Googler desks and conference rooms, lounge spaces, and kitchens. As a counterpoint to the open workstations, it produces a sense of calm. Moving along the caterpillar is a spatial and sensory contrast from the intensity of workspace. While the typical glass walls of conference rooms are familar, the highly tuned lighting and soft fabric surface paired with the reflective glass is an unexpected delight.
The caterpillar is a dynamic element that winds its way through all three campus buildings and defines circulation in each. Its undulating form features an integrated programmable LED lighting system that changes throughout the day—from a soft white for early morning workers, to a blue glow during the day, and sunset orange to denote lunch, events, or when it’s time to catch the Google bus.
Additional Design Elements
Lounge areas are designed for a residential feel, with area rugs, throw pillows, and a variety of lighting types. Staff kitchens are strategically located along the linking path to help foster unexpected interaction. Green walls and skylights at break rooms incorporate Google’s intention to integrate biophilia into the workplace.
Each building has a specific color palette - spring green, sky blue, or sunset blue - to celebrates the California climate. Biophilic elements such as plants and the linking path nod to the natural beauty of the larger site. Simple fenestration opens the workspace into the garden, with planter storage units used to coalesce work teams into distinct groups.
Campus identity is emphasized through bold experiential graphics created by Space Agency. A subtly abstracted tree-ring pattern representing the redwoods on site is a wayfinding device. Beginning on the linking path outside the buildings, the graphic travels inside on the floors, and continues up onto walls.
Architects - Studio Sarah Willmer
Structural – Pivot Structural Engineers
Lighting Design – Melinda Morrison Lighting and Illuminosa
Graphic Design – Space Agency
Acoustics – Charles M. Salter Associates
Photographer - Bruce Damonte
Flooring - Carpet Tile Type 1, Viva Colores (color varied), Interface Flor
Carpet Tile Type 2, On Line (color varied), Interface Flor
Carpet Tile Type 3, Monochrome (color varied), Interface Flor
Interior lighting - Surface Mount Linear Accent Type 1, G2 High Output, Ketra
Surface Mount Adj. Table Lamp, Pixo, Pablo
Wall Mounted Wall Washer Type 1, HP-2 LED, Finelite
Pendant Type 1, HP-2 LED, Finelite
Pendant Type 2, Saturn 1-Tier LED, ET2
Pendant Type 3, AIM, Flos
Pendant Type 4, LLM LED, H.E. Williams
Recessed Type 1, HPR LED 2x2, Finelite
Recessed Type 2, 2RP-AD LED, Lucifer
Recessed Linear Type 1, L4R, Ketra
Recessed Linear Type 2, HP-WG LED, Finelite
Recessed Linear Type 3, HP-4 LED, Finelite
Recessed Wall Washer Type 1, Fraxion 4 LED, Lucifer
Recessed Wall Washer Type 2, HP-WS LED, Finelite
Pendant Mounted Adj.Down Light Type 1, Cylinder CY1 LED, Lucifer Wall Mounted Adj.Down Light Type 1, Squilinder SQ2 LED, Lucifer Wall Mounted Type 1, HP-4 LED, Finelite
Wall Mounted Type 2, Limburg LED, Bega
Wall Mounted Type 3, No. 203 Two Arm Sconce, David Weeks Studio
Interior furniture - Furniture by One Workplace, Conference Rm Chairs, Think, Steelcase, Break Room Stools, Nerd Counter Stool, Muuto