Get ready all you SimCity 2000 fans; arcologies are back! But not in a new SimCity game (boo), in real life: Google is planning to build an arcology-like corporate HQ in central London. The project is being cleverly dubbed a ‘landscraper’ because it will take the form of a skyscraper laid on it’s side. At 1,082 feet (330 meters) long, it’ll be just a tad longer than the Shard (the tallest skyscraper in London) is tall. But it’s by no means short either: it’ll be 11 stories tall and contain over 1 million square feet of (mostly) office space.
The small corporate arcology will, naturally, feature a lush garden full of trees and walking paths on the roof to properly simulate the city-within-a-city motif. The building will also house a wide variety of restaurants and other retail stores, making much of the outside world largely irrelevant.
Given the building’s mostly horizontal, rather than vertical, footprint, and given its location in central London adjacent to the city’s busiest train station, King’s Cross, Google’s rent is going to be bonkers. Skyscrapers are a common feature of city centers precisely because they offer an efficient way to utilize extremely valuable land. As a primarily horizontal ‘landscraper,’ every square foot of the building is going to be worth a small fortune. Thankfully, Google is rumored to have a few extra dollars to toss around.
But generally this is not the case, and it’s doubtful that the ‘landscraper’ will become a popular new model for commercial office buildings within dense urban centers. In more sprawling urban areas or within cities with strict height limits, however, the landscraper may have its place. Its less eccentric height conforms with more human-scale environments, and the inclusion of retail shops on the ground floor can actually contribute to a more vibrant streetscape if done correctly. Buildings embedded in the urban fabric is almost always preferable to segregated corporate compounds, like the one proposed by Microsoft just this past week or the Apple mothership.
It is perhaps more symbolic than functional that Google has chosen the King’s Cross location to raise their London HQ. They will be situated in the beating heart of one of the wealthiest and most powerful cities in the world, and they’ll do it lying down. It’s hard not to be impressed.
Come to think of it, I’m not sure the architect was taking cues from SC2000’s arcologies, or the more recent Green Cities expansion for Cities: Skylines. Either way, groundbreaking on Google’s corporate-cology is expected in 2018.
More renderings for the curious: