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Wednesday23 August 2017

BIG and Heatherwick Studio's 'exciting' plans for Google's King's Cross HQ get green light

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Camden’s planning committee voted unanimously for the scheme

Google Kings Cross HQ

Google has won approval from planners at Camden council for its new £1bn headquarters at London’s King’s Cross.

The reserved matters application for the BIG and Heatherwick Studio designed building follows outline planning approval in 2013 from Camden council for a previous scheme designed by AHMM.

Commenting on the planning approval BIG’s founding partner Bjarke Ingels said: “The unanimous planning approval of our first project in the UK is obviously great for us and our London office – but more importantly King’s Cross will get a very lively new neighbour and the UK Googlers will finally be united.“

And Thomas Heatherwick, founder of Heatherwick Studio, said: “Strong support for an ambitious building in an important part of the city is more proof that London is not afraid of its future. We’re excited to start building.”

The scheme will fill a one hectare site at the southern end of developer Argent’s 27-hectare regeneration scheme, next to King’s Cross station.

Perched on a plinth punctuated by office entrances the “stepped” terrace-style building will be 11-storeys high, with up to 15 retail units at ground level along King’s Boulevard and accommodate 4,500 employees.

The 80,819m2 building will feature a three lane, 25m long pool, multi-use games area and gym on its upper floors and an 8,590m2 landscaped roof garden with a 200m “trim trail” – a running or walking track with exercise stations at regular intervals.

In addition the building will have an events space on the lower ground and first and second floors, which will be used by Google for product launches, talks, presentations and industry events.

The wider project team includes BDP as the executive architect. The tech giant has appointed contractor Lendlease to build its new London HQ, which has an estimated construction cost of £350m.

Planning officers at the council had recommended the scheme for approval and during the planning committee meeting last night said the proposed building was considered to be “refined and elegant with a strong cohesive palette of materials” and had “a strong architectural character to make a positive contribution to the area”.

Members of the planning committee did raise questions on the aging process of the vertical wooden mullions – vertical bars between the panes of glass - and how the presentation of the building might end up changing over time, as well as the palette choice for cladding materials to be used on the ground level retail units. The options laid out included one gold-coloured material that one councillor called “rather garish”, prior to voting in to approve the application.

In addition, councillors asked if it would be possible to open up the roof garden to the local community more often than the specified once-a-year Open House programme in the capital and how much access would be given to the events space, which Google envisaged would also be used by technology-focused organisations and community groups or charities.

The planning officer said discussions were ongoing on both topics, but added that Google had a very busy programme planned for the events centre and the open plan nature of the building meant there were security concerns about opening up opening up the roof garden further.

Following the vote in favour of approving the planning application chair of the planning committee and councillor Heather Johnson called Google’s HQ “a very exciting building”.

Argent partner David Partridge said: “We are very pleased that Google’s UK HQ has been given the green light, and the team can now commence construction. Exceptional design and innovative engineering have created a fitting home for the Googlers who will enjoy the culture, leisure and public spaces that King’s Cross offers.”

Google’s director of real estate and construction Jo Borrett said: “We’re pleased that our new UK HQ has been approved by Camden and are excited to progress with the next phase of the development, through construction to occupation. The Knowledge Quarter in and around Kings Cross is an important centre for innovation and creativity; and we are proud to be able to call it home.”

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Readers' comments (5)

  • Just excellent. Google is such a excellent organisation. Excellent for Kings Cross. Excellent for london. Excellent for humanity.

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  • SomeoneStoleMyNick

    Very funny.

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  • Conversation between Google and Camden Council

    Camden: "Will you open up the roof garden for the community? After all, this is 1 hectare of previously publicly held land in the centre of London."

    Google: "Er - no, security concerns and what-have-you. Do you have a problem with that?" (dangles large purse containing future business rates)

    Camden: "No, no, no problem whatsoever! Application approved!"

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  • SomeoneStoleMyNick

    Quote: councillor Heather Johnson called Google’s HQ “a very exciting building”.

    There has long been a question mark over the role of councillor Heather Johnson.

    I'll leave it at that.

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  • It doesn't take much to get some people excited.

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