Google opens Mountain View visitor center at dragonscale canopy office

Phones, gadgets, cafe, art, events, pop up stores and cafe are part of new visitor center

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA — Google hopes that its new visitor center in Mountain View will provide dynamic spaces for neighbors, tourists, artists, and employees to gather, create, and innovate.

The Google Visitor Experience, located inside the company’s eye-catching Gradient Canopy office building at 2000 North Shoreline Blvd., is set to open to the public on Thursday and includes a Google store, the tech titan’s first physical retail outlet on the West Coast.

Along with the Google store, the company’s visitor experience center features pop-up retail sites, art-making stations, a public cafe, open spaces, and one-of-a-kind works of art such as a 160,000-penny bear, a walk-through globe, and a sculpture that disappears depending on the viewing angle. A number of community events are also being planned.

“We wanted to design something that is really special,” Ruth Porat, president and chief investment officer of Alphabet, which owns Google, said Wednesday at an event to provide a sneak peek inside the new visitor center.

According to Google executives, the complex will be more than just a visitor center.

“We have included spaces that we specifically designed for the community,” Mr. Porat stated.

With coronavirus-related business closures a thing of the past and most people no longer isolating themselves, Google hopes its new center will help spur a variety of connections between the general public and employees working in the Gradient Canopy building and other company locations.

“This has been a long time coming,” Michelle Kaufmann, Google’s director of research and development for the built environment, said. “We started working on this eight years ago.”

The company’s store was designed to invite the public to wander around and try out Google’s latest gadgets.

The equipment includes cutting-edge devices like the Pixel 8 phone as well as whimsical items like miniature versions of Google’s grab-and-go bicycles, known as GBikes in the company’s jargon.

The Huddle, a platform for community connections that will offer free events and workshops to visitors, the Pop-Up Shop, which creates opportunities for small businesses and entrepreneurs, and the Cafe @ Mountain View, Google’s first-ever public dining experience, are also important parts of the visitor center. According to Matt Hood, Google’s food program senior director, the company prepares 1.5 million meals per week across 60 countries.

“This can become your everyday local breakfast shop or a place for people to grab lunch,” Hood went on to say.

The plazas and visitor center are part of the company’s Gradient Canopy office, one of three Google buildings in Mountain View that use dragonscale solar panels to power the trio of futuristic work hubs.

According to Kaufmann, the canopy office building is the largest in the world to receive a Living Building Challenge Materials Petal Certification, which is one of the most ambitious green certifications that a building can achieve.

In addition to the solar panels, Kaufmann said that sections of the Gradient Canopy office building are made from repurposed materials, including some salvaged from the historic Hangar One a few miles away.

The structure was designed and constructed to incorporate futuristic features that assist the vast complex in blending with the local ecosystem and environment. The Burning Man Project assisted in the curation of the art pieces on campus.

“Google did an amazing job with this building,” said Shani Kleinhaus, a Santa Clara Valley Audobon Society environmental advocate. “They’re bringing nature into the house with this.” They are introducing the ecosystem into the structure.”

The store is a fusion of Renaissance and cutting-edge Google technologies.

“We wanted to create a store that felt like it belonged in the 15th century, with a room full of antiquities,” said Ivy Ross, Google’s vice president of Design, UX, and Hardware Research.

In the store’s nooks and shelves, there are a variety of phones and other devices.

The new visitor center, as well as the Gradient Canopy building, serve as reminders that Google is attempting to increase the amount of time employees spend at the company’s offices. Many Google employees were seen walking in and out of the building and other nearby offices, as well as riding the company’s bicycles.

According to Scott Foster, Google’s vice president of Real Estate and Workplaces Services, approximately 1,800 Googlers work in the Gradient Canopy building. The structure can house up to 2,000 workers. Heatherwick Studio and Bjarke Ingels Group collaborated on the design of the building and visitor center.

The Google Visitor Experience, as well as its proximity to the new office building, may have an impact on connections not only at Google, but also in the community at large.

“For the first time, we have a place that can be a blueprint for the best of coming together,” said Kaufmann.

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