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Council gives go-ahead for Heatherwick and BIG’s £600m Google HQ at King’s Cross

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Camden Council has backed plans for a 300m-long headquarters for internet giant Google at King’s Cross designed by BIG and Heatherwick Studio

Occupying a ‘long, tapering plot’ just north of the mainline station, the project, known as the Zone A Building, will provide 80,819m² of space for the company on developer Argent’s flagship King’s Cross Central regeneration site.

The office will be the largest single building at King’s Cross Central, rising in height from seven to 11 storeys and housing more than 5,000 staff. The huge scheme will sit on a ‘plinth’ of shops punctuated by office entrances along its King’s Boulevard façade. The building will feature a three-lane, 25m-long pool and a massive landscaped roof, including a 200m running and walking track. 

The design team on the massive job includes AJ100 big-hitter BDP as executive architect, engineers AKT II and landscape specialist Gillespies.

Because of its scale, the reserved matters application for the building was referred to the borough’s planning committee, which waved the plans through last night (10 August).

Argent’s David Partridge, head of the King’s Cross team, said: ‘We’re 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

‘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.’

Thomas Heatherwick 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.’

Bjarke Ingels of BIG added: ’The unanimous planning approval of our first project in the UK is obviously great for us and our London office - but more importantly Kings Cross will get a very lively new neighbour and the UK Googlers will finally be united.’

According to the planning officers’ report, which recommended approval for the massive scheme, the proposed design ‘responds robustly and thoughtfully to the historic forms and functions in which it would intervene’.

The report added: ‘The gentle varieties and rigorous repetitions in the façade mitigate the intervention of this large new form into the townscape and wider context.

‘The building takes a new approach to the traditional office floorspace through creating triple and double-height spaces, which open up the function of the office space up through the elevation whilst maximising the daylight and sunlight onto the office floors.’

However, the Regent’s Canal Conservation Area Advisory Committee had objected to the proposal, saying it had ‘considerable misgivings’ about the northern end of the project and the elevations overlooking Granary Square.

The committee said: ‘The division into four horizontal layers [at the northern end] with uniformly repeated cornices is crudely handled and the treatment is over-emphatic, whereas a calming effect is called for at this scale.

‘The handling of the elements within the panels at the subsidiary scale seems over-complex and ill thought-through. The inevitable shade that will be cast on the square is already on the downside.’

Screen shot 2017 05 23 at 15.44.00

Screen shot 2017 05 23 at 15.44.00

Northern end of the development overlooking Granary Square

The major office scheme has been on the drawing board in various guises for more than five years. It was effectively put on hold in November 2013 after Google asked for AHMM’s consented scheme (pictured below) to be redesigned. Heatherwick Studio and Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) were subsequently brought in to devise a new concept for the same site.

BIG and Heatherwick Studio are also both working on Google’s HQ in Mountain View, California. Earlier this year the pair described the King’s Cross scheme as a ‘Silicon Valley start-up garage-meets-the London train sheds’.

Plans for the London HQ have an estimated construction value of more than £600 million: £400 million for the shell and core, and around £200 million for the fit-out.

Google’s London staff are currently spread across offices in Covent Garden and Victoria, and the new offices will bring them together under one roof.

The tech giant already has a presence at the King’s Cross redevelopment site, having taken space inside 6 Pancras Square – a building designed by Wilmotte & Associés and fitted out by AHMM. 

AHMM's original proposals for Google new HQ (approved September 2013) - model shot

AHMM’s original proposals for Google new HQ (approved September 2013) - model shot

AHMM’s original proposals for Google new HQ (approved September 2013) - model shot

Reason for Referral to Committee: This application is being referred under part (ii) details of the siting, design and external appearance of more than 1,000m² of non-residential floorspace of the King’s Cross Delegation Agreement agreed by the Development Control Committee on 26 July 2007.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • In due course we'll be able to see whether the thin end of the wedge is any more appealing than image 6/21 suggests.

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