Google, Spruce Goose
Architect: ZGF Architects LLP
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Originally built in 1943 for the construction of Howard Hughes’ H-4 Hercules airplane, this 450,000-square-foot hangar now houses a new technological marvel. Restored and transformed, the seven-story, 750-foot-long structure houses workspace, meeting and event spaces, and amenities for Google employees in the Los Angeles area.
The structure and the campus that encompasses it were deemed eligible for the National Register of Historic Places in the early 1990s, and both are on the state’s register. To that end, the hangar’s original 75-foot glulam arches and wood sidings were preserved, while the central spine was carefully deconstructed and rebuilt using noncombustible materials. The team also unearthed rows of clerestory windows and restored them to their original sill lines.
Given Google’s commitment to creating inspiring spaces and experiences for its employees, the project required an innovative design approach. The new architecture is placed inside the vast volume of the hangar on either side of the central spine, which serves as a lengthwise dividing line. Each new floor is varied in shape and height, offering interesting vantage points and allowing daylight to flow into every level. To ensure the central spine would serve as a unifying element, the team placed collaborative and amenity spaces there. Circulation is intended to promote interaction among employees, and bridges connect new architecture to the spine at different points on each level. Running around the perimeter of the floorplates, a boardwalk rises on a subtle incline from the ground floor to the third.
The team relied on subtle materiality throughout, allowing the original wooden structure to shine. Texture generally supersedes color, and the team relied on matte finishes—brushed metal wall coverings, concrete floorings, and monochromatic carpet—throughout. Color and pattern can be found in the wide range of furnishings hand-selected for the project, and they compliment a series of vibrant art installations. A mural by artist Hueman covers three walls and spans two floors. It was envisioned as a cloudscape for a nearby flock of 3D-printed geese. An additional mural on the third floor, by Kim West, was inspired by the vintage film Yogi Bear and the Magical Flight of the Spruce Goose. The artist’s forest of palm trees and flowers provides a technicolor homage to Howard Hughes’ era.
"The adaptation of [this] landmark hangar is incredible, and suggests a continuity and parallel in the innovate work of Hughes and Google. Old and new are richer for one another." - Jury comment