Google Urban Activation

Project information
2020 - Ongoing
Global (USA, UK, EU)
The Challenge

Reimagining campuses as engines of public life

In today’s rapidly evolving corporate landscape, the traditional concept of the office campus is undergoing a profound transformation. With it, suburban office parks serving employees are evolving into multifunctional mixed-use hubs integrated within their often increasingly urban contexts. The notion that the private sector is an engine of transformation for cities is at the heart of this paradigm shift. If a company’s brand has a great story to tell, its operating footprint should too. License to operate requires building long-lasting trust and credibility with neighbors. Future-ready companies are reimagining their campuses as more than just private enclaves for employees. Instead, these new workplaces actively contribute to the wellbeing of employees and neighbors, and welcome the broader community.

Image Credit: Mark Wickens

The Impact

Upholding Google’s goal to be a helpful neighbor

Known for its future-forward workplace design, Google understands the value of campuses that are increasingly integrated within the urban environment. Gehl worked with Google to understand how it can continue to be a helpful neighbor in the communities in which it operates. Following this initial scope of work, Gehl worked within Google’s Real Estate & Workplace Services organization to support the development and strategy of a program dedicated to helping build stronger local community ties through the design and programming of public spaces at Google sites globally.

As part of this effort, Gehl supported the visioning of a holistic design and programming vision for the Google Headquarters that caters to the needs of the local community, the Google workforce, and the visitors that flock to the campus annually.

Image Credit: Mark Wickens

Image Credit: Mark Wickens

In October 2023, the Google Visitor Experience at Gradient Canopy in Mountain View, CA, opened to the public: a culmination of years of meticulous design work and dedicated collaboration. This new destination includes The Huddle, a community event space; the Cafe @ Mountain View; the Pop-Up Shop featuring local businesses; the first brick and mortar Google store on the West Coast, and a public plaza featuring six works of art facilitated by Burning Man Project. 

The experience offers a variety of amenities and activities for everyone, each harnessing Google’s foundational values of equity and belonging. As the program matures, the Gehl team will monitor the extent to which it is delivering on its ambitions and will provide insights to help adjust programming accordingly.

The Collaboration

The Google Visitor Experience is just the kind of public place Mountain View needs. It gives locals and tourists a place to come celebrate our community of tech and innovation.

Alison Hicks
Mayor of Mountain View, CA

Image Credit: Mark Wickens

This project required aligning the societal ambitions of the program with Google’s business objectives. The Gehl team analyzed the urban and project context, ran several Public Space Public Life surveys to identify preferred activation pathways, and helped design an ecosystem of public spaces that carefully integrates with the existing fabric of the campus, as well as its future evolution into a mixed-use neighborhood.

Now, this soon-to-be-global portfolio of public spaces (including spaces in New York and London) constitutes a new interface between Google and the public. One that embodies Google’s values through place and in turn, positively affects trust-building at the local level, fosters innovation, creates a sense of place and belonging, fuels local businesses, and delivers lasting social impact while tangibly demonstrating Google’s commitment to being a helpful neighbor. Through this initiative, Gehl is accompanying Google in balancing workplace needs with those of communities globally.

For more information, please visit the Google Visitor Experience website.

Image Credit: Mark Wickens

Image Credit: Mark Wickens

Get in touch

Want to know more about this project?

Urban Designer
Simon Sochas
Partner, Head of Climate, Team Director US Enterprise & Corporations
Blaine Merker
Krzysztof Sadlej
Strategist & Designer
Ashrita Shetty
Andreina Seijas
Akana Jayewardene
Our services

Delivering impact through a multidisciplinary approach

Urban Strategy

Urban Strategy is the foundation upon which form, function and behaviour are created. Our holistic approach always starts with asking what life should exist in place, what spaces invite for that life, and what buildings and facilities support this. People and life first, always.

Public Life Data

Public Life Data, the collection and analysis of qualitative and quantitative information about how people use and engage with public spaces, uncovers the true picture of how design impacts behavior. Our teams use this collected analysis to develop strategies and plans that foster more equitable, healthy and climate-positive lifestyles.