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Google presses go on Heatherwick and BIG's £600m HQ at King's Cross

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Internet giant Google has committed to building a massive new headquarters building at King’s Cross designed by BIG and Heatherwick Studio

The company, which employs around 4,000 people in the UK, told the BBC that it was looking to more than double the office space it currently occupies on developer Argent’s flagship regeneration site.

Google said it planned to invest more than £1 billion in the new King’s Cross building and the cost of hiring thousands more staff.

The huge office scheme was effectively put on hold in November 2013 after Google asked for AHMM’s consented scheme (pictured below) to be redesigned. Heatherwick Studio and BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group) were subsequently brought in to come up with a new concept for the same site, though their new designs have still to be released.

Both BIG and Heatherwick Studio are already working on Google’s HQ in Mountain View, California. The pair described the yet-to-be-seen London scheme, being worked on with architect BDP, as a ‘Silicon Valley startup garage meets the London train sheds’.

Speaking to the BBC, Google chief executive Sundar Pichai said: ‘We see big opportunities here. This is a big commitment from us. We have some of the best talent in the world in the UK, and to be able to build great products from here sets us up well for the long term.’

He said that Google had taken the EU referendum result into consideration when making the investment decision, but that it was ‘very optimistic’.

He added: ’We are committed to the UK and excited to continue our investment in our new King’s Cross campus.’

London mayor Sadiq Khan was quick to welcome the news, saying: ‘This is a vote of confidence in our great city – creating high-skilled jobs, supporting growth and demonstrating that London is open to business, new investment and talent from around the globe.

‘London is one the world’s leading technology hubs, and investment into the capital post-Brexit remains robust, so Google’s expansion will further strengthen our city’s reputation as a global leader in digital technology.’

The move comes just weeks after AXA and a consortium of overseas developers pledged to press ahead with PLP’s 22 Bishopsgate scheme.

It is understood that Google approached a number of contractors during the summer to build the HQ just north of King’s Cross station. 

Argent is believed to have contacted some of the UK’s top contractors, in a move that goes beyond the developer’s 20-year relationship with the three firms on its framework: Bam Construct, Carillion and Kier.

Mace and Sir Robert McAlpine are understood to be among those interested in the scheme.

Bam Construct was originally appointed as main contractor on the original scheme in March 2013, in a deal worth £300 million.

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

Plans for the new 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 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 6 Pancras Square.

It is also developing an office block on the site, known as S2, which was approved by Camden Council in March. The 26,000m² building is 10 storeys high and was designed by Mossessian Architecture.

The 27ha King’s Cross site is one of the largest redevelopments in London. The masterplan includes 50 buildings and 1,900 homes. It is being developed by the King’s Cross Central Limited Partnership, which includes Argent, DHL and London & Continental Railways and was formed in 2008.

A spokesperson for Argent said: ‘The office community at King’s Cross is going from strength to strength; rents have appreciated 100 per cent in the last five years.’


Bjarke Ingels and Thomas Heatherwick

‘From the beginning, the project to give Google a new home in King’s Cross has been extraordinary. Rather than impose a universal style on Google’s buildings in the UK and the USA, we have tried to create an interestingness that fits the scale and the community of King’s Cross.

‘The Silicon Valley startup garage meets the London train sheds in a building that couples clarity with eccentricity and anchors innovation with heritage.’

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Why did Google abandon AHMM's design? - and is the BIG / Heatherwick design for the same, or a larger, site?
    It'll be interesting to see whether the new design is better for King's Cross, or just for Google; also interesting that Sundar Pichai was on the Beeb softening up public and political opinion just at the right moment, when there are worries that Brexit will frighten off the international investors.
    Sadiq Khan was naturally quick to endorse Google's proposals, but they need to show what they want to build - the same designers' proposals for Mountain View are pretty irrelevant in the context of King's Cross.

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