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Here are Google’s plans for a crazy new campus

February 27, 2015, 8:23 PM UTC
Courtesy of Google

Google is planning a futuristic campus that it hopes will live up to its innovative image.

Renderings, submitted to the Internet giant’s hometown of Mountain View, Calif., show office buildings enclosed in tents of glass that look like undulating greenhouses. Office walls are designed to be adjustable so that they can be moved like furniture depending on the company’s needs.

“Instead of constructing immoveable concrete buildings, we’ll create lightweight block-like structures which can be moved around easily as we invest in new product areas,” David Radcliffe, Google’s vice president of real estate, said in a blog post Friday. “Large translucent canopies will cover each site, controlling the climate inside yet letting in light and air.”

The sci-fi campus is Google’s effort to get some elbow room as it continues to rapidly expand while creating more pizazz for its headquarters. The company has nearly 15,000 workers in Mountain View spread across a hodgepodge of dozens of low slung corporate buildings that are if anything, undistinguished.

But the plans are apt to generate opposition from locals who are already grappling with traffic gridlock and fear environmental damage to nearby San Francisco Bay wetlands. Mountain View’s City Council will have to weigh the concerns against the possibility of losing jobs to neighboring cities.

In a slick presentation of images and a video, Google (GOOG) cast the new offices as a way to reduce street congestion and suburban sprawl. The company said that the remade campus would free up room for more nature by freeing up space currently used for parking lots.

Interior of a proposed building within a canopy that includes buildings that operate like furniture—light, tactile and reconfigurable.Courtesy of Google

Left unsaid is the reality that Google is falling behind in the race among Silicon Valley giants for cool corporate architecture and the recruiting advantage it creates. Apple, for example, is building a doughnut-shaped headquarters nearby that’s commonly referred to as the “spaceship.”

Google’s offices, designed by the architectural firms BIG and Heatherwick Studio, are supposed to bridge indoors and outdoors by creating spaces that are like indoor gardens. Of course, there will be offices too, where presumably, techies will be hard at work on their computers tweaking the company’s search engine, coming up with ways to make people click on more ads and coming up with oddball projects like self-driving cars.

However, the renderings are preliminary and do not include any actual specifics like architectural designs. At this point, they designs are hardly cast in stone – or glass, in this case – and subject to change and approval by the city government.

Proposed building surrounded by restored natural habitat. A parking structure is hidden below this landscaped garden.Courtesy of Google