LONDON — Google’s plan to turn a long, thin, plot of land behind King’s Cross train station in London into its new UK headquarters is currently running several years behind schedule.
It’s been a far from straightforward project for the Mountain View-headquartered search giant.
Google submitted glitzy new office designs to Camden Council this week but the company would have already moved into a building on the site if it had followed through with its initial plans.
Back in January 2013, Google announced that it intended to move into a new £1 billion 11-storey office on the site by 2016. Several months later, in September 2013, Camden Council accepted Google office designs submitted by Allford Hall Monaghan Morris (AHMM) that contained a rooftop swimming pool and a running track.
Months went by with no building activity and Google told Techworld that it had pushed the completion date back by a year to 2017. It later said that there was no target completion date. It then emerged that the initial plans had been scrapped, with The Daily Mail reporting in February 2015 that Google cofounder Larry Page thought they were “too boring.”
When asked if this was true, a Google spokesperson told Business Insider on Friday: “As you know, we don’t comment on rumour or speculation so won’t be able to comment on the alleged comment from Larry.”
Interestingly, the plans submitted this week — drawn up by Heatherwick Studios and Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) — share many similarities with those drawn up by AHMM. Both depict an 11-storey high building with a swimming pool and an elaborate roof with a running trail, for example. As a result, it’s hard to say whether Page really did dismiss the initial designs or whether there were other unknown forces at play here.
Since the rumours emerged, there’s been relatively little activity on the site. It has been used to accommodate the set for “The Railway Children” theatre production but there’s been little, if any, Google building activity.
However, as Google stalled on the project, the company took a long lease on an existing building over the road that has enough space for over 2,500 staff. Googlers began moving into the 6 Pancras Square property in June 2016 and Alphabet-owned DeepMind also has two floors of the building. Elsewhere, Google has also secured another smaller property at King’s Cross, meaning it will have at least three properties in the area if the initial one is completed.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai said in November that the new Google campus, as the overall development is now being referred to, will be able to accommodate 7,000 Googlers when it is finished, making it one of Google’s largest bases in the world.
At the time, Pichai told the BBC during a visit to London that Google sees “big opportunities” in the UK. “The UK has been a tremendous market for us,” he said. “We see big opportunities here. This is a big commitment from us — we have some of the best talent in the world in the UK and to be able to build great products from here sets us up well for the long term.”
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