The proposed Google Mountain View headquarters in California, United States, could be assembled by an army of robot-crane hybrids known as ‘crabots’.
Designed by Bjarke Ingels’ BIG and Thomas Heatherwick’s Heatherwick Studio, the new Google HQ project was unveiled in late February, with images showing a network of lightweight and translucent canopies covering both buildings and outdoor areas to control the climate without compromising indoor access to natural daylight and ventilation.
Trees, landscaping, cafes and bicycle paths will weave through these canopied structures in a bid to blur the distinction between office and nature.
The project is the first time the search engine giant is designing and building its office from scratch, and instead of creating immoveable concrete buildings, Google wanted lightweight block-like structures that can be moved around easily as it invests in new product areas.
To assist with the creation of ever-flexible interior spaces, the firm has proposed the use of machines that combine traditional cranes with robotic technologies. According to the Architects’ Journal, planning documents submitted to the City of Mountain View Council details the use of crabots that, given reign to move freely beneath the canopies, will lift and move pre-fabricated components into place within hours instead of just months.
"We have studied different options to create a lightweight, flexible and 'hackable' system for the building of the interior structures," says the report submitted to the City of Mountain View Council.
"Our objective is to create a solution that can be assembled efficiently and economically within pre-erected canopy structures by means of small, easily manoeuvrable cranes."
The internal structures of the proposed HQ are to be built with a system of steel columns and monocque floor plates, each no heavier than 10 tonnes, or the maximum weight a small crane can lift and manage.
“The monocoque system has been tested in each of the buildings of this submittal and has proved a flexible and resilient system to various degrees of ‘hacking’ and customising,” the documents reportedly say.
“We have developed special edge clip-on components with the monocoque system that allow to cantilever the floor plates out from the columns.”
However, Google’s plans for expansion and the launch of its lego-like building crabots, could sustain a major blow as LinkedIn has been awarded three-quarters of the North Bayshore area site by Council Members. This would leave Google space to construct just one of the four proposed buildings.