Google and Ingenhoven: A Match Made in Heaven?

The client architect relationship is a crucial factor in the success of any building. Success, that is, measured by the synthesis of the client’s aspirations (and brief) with the architect’s aspirations (design and resolution) – not fame and popularity. It is a meeting of minds. And it is a rarer event than you might think.

The Google HQ
The existing Googleplex (not designed by Ingenhoven... if it wasn't already obvious)

So with Google commissioning Ingenhoven to design their main campus (aka Googleplex) in Mountain View, there is a high probability, given the respective backgrounds of the two, that the project will be a success. Google is effectively run by engineers — talented and (mostly) wealthy ones — but engineers nonetheless. Being engineers they approach things with a methodical, logical eye. Why else would they have hundreds of great services we use every day that all look they were designed by someone with a very limited ‘design eye’. Perhaps ‘minimal’ would be the most polite way of describing Google web design. Some talented designers (Doug Bowman) have tried over the years… and failed. The entrenched engineering approach is summed up by Google VP Marissa Mayer demanding a study to test 41 shades of blue to find the ‘correct’ one!

So what’s all this to do with architecture?

Having written about Ingenhoven here before, to me it seems like a logical match. He practices architecture with a rational engineering approach particularly in relation to sustainability. That will no doubt suit Google. The project is a first for both Google and Ingenhoven; it is the first building commissioned by Google by an architect and the first American project for Ingenhoven. Not sure if that spells trouble or just a few client-architect teething issues.

…a design process that emulates nature — and not from ornamentation.
(Christoph Ingenhoven)

Perhaps Google and Ingenhoven will be a client-architect match made in heaven. Meanwhile another huge tech company and architect have started dating: Apple and Foster. Only time will tell which relationship works out.