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Ho ho ho! It’s that time of year again. Here’s JHK’s holiday classic: A Christmas Orphan.

11-year-old Jeff Greenaway hears his mom and dad argue one night after an office Christmas party. He infers from their garbled squabble that he is an orphan, found in a willow basket on the welcome mat outside their New York apartment. Thinking now that his parents are imposters, he steals away to Grand Central Station and buys a train ticket to Drakesville, Vermont, where he intends to start life all over again.
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Behold the proposed new Google headquarters, Mountain View (Silicon Valley), CA. Google, of course, has enough walking around money in its deep pockets to indulge in the most fantastic architectural status stunt — meaning that the diminishing returns of great wealth and cleverness will bite extra hard. This, uh, structure, by Bjark Ingles and Thomas Heatherstone employs all the dishonest tropes of our time in order to achieve techno-narcissist lift-off: 1.) the idea that buildings should erase the boundary between being inside and outside; 2) that “nature” is the sovereign remedy for the failure to provide real urbanism; that space functions best when it lacks definition; that work is really just play; and perhaps most insidious, that the modular fabricated materials of today will age gracefully and be repairable. I would not bet on that outcome at all. They say that empires build their most grandiose and grotesque monuments just before they collapse, and Google is kind of a sub-empire of the greater USA techno-clown empire. As the late Rod Serling might say: “…submitted for your approval, a mauseleum for the Information Age….”

Below, check out the childishly-conceived nature installation in all its greenwashed ambiguity. This is the kind of trendoid “landscape urbanism” crap promoted by the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Basically, a park minus artistry. Looks like it was designed by the late Thomas Kinkaid for a creation museum diorama.

Below illustration, find additional comments by Catherine Johnson

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Additional Informed Comments

By Catherine Johnson
Middletown, Connecticut
Licensed Architect, Charter Member Congress for the New Urbanism.  

(cjdraws@gmail.com)

Google wants a flexible building. “It is our responsibility to build something that reflects Our Age – technology.” Thus the proposed Erector Set with Stretchy Glass Stocking on top where you can have “a car factory or, after 5 years, something else!” But, poor Googlers, you’ve missed the mark. You’re trying too hard to be groovy. Your goal shouldn’t be on making a literal manifestation of “technology” on the building skin, but rather creating spaces that work best for human beings, and creating the habitat to support their psychological and physical well-being.The focus should not be on inventing new materials to build with, but on creating the kinds of spaces that humans seek and feel good in: intimate spaces, both inside and outside buildings, places with variety of activities, places where one can find stimulation and other places for self-refection.

The space for supporting human activity has changed very little over the past 8,000 years. We still use incredible stone factory buildings from two hundred years ago. Why? Their flexibility comes from of a size and design that reinforce a wide spectrum of human activity (dimension, height, permit natural light and air). Second, they were put IN THE RIGHT PLACE to begin with. They work because they are invariably located in a downtown where there are other things to do, both useful and for pleasure, day and night, accessible by foot rather than only a private vehicle sent specifically for that purpose.

Build something that can be reused not only after 5-15 years, but after Google is gone. If you choose right, you can have a building that will support creative human endeavor for hundreds of years, making hundreds of different types of products, and you won’t have to “rip it down after 5 years.” You plan to build  Rouge River when you should really be building Highland Park.
Maybe you are looking to other tech companies for ideas about how to approach creating modern office workspace, but you’re looking at the wrong models. The “office park in the prairie” complexes are of a 1970’s mindset. Places of business cannot be isolated, no matter how large, in a world of its own creating and last over the long haul. Your Erector Set building will never be recycled, renovated, or worse, able to be sold. Its odd novelty will make it the least flexible building ever conceived. The flashy photo of today will become the icon of a mistake, showing a company who didn’t understand true green buildings rely on the technology formed over millennia instead of the last 15 minutes.
If Stretchy Glass was such a good idea, Buckminister Fuller have already done it 60 years ago. This building is obsolete and nary a sky-brella has even opened. Make you mark by doing something completely radical: look at  traditional buildings that stood the test of time, buildings that are beloved for their design, buildings that support humanity not the technology that may operate within them.

Note: JHK’s 2015 Forecast is available now at this link: Forecast 2015 — Life in the Breakdown Lane

The new World Made By Hand novel

!! Is now available !!

Kunstler skewers everything from kitsch to greed, prejudice, bloodshed, and brainwashing in this wily, funny, rip-roaring, and profoundly provocative page- turner, leaving no doubt that the prescriptive yet devilishly satiric A World Made by Hand series will continue.” — Booklist

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My local indie booksellers… Battenkill Books (Autographed by the Author) … or Northshire Books
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Also: Published as an E-book for the first time!
The 20th Anniversary edition
With an entertaining new introduction by the author

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Bargain Price $3.99

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About James Howard Kunstler

View all posts by James Howard Kunstler
James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

17 Responses to “March 2015” Subscribe

  1. pmarproject March 2, 2015 at 4:33 pm #

    Not shown is the giant parking lot required for such a structure. Even in sunny california-land it still gets cold and large amounts of glazing means large utility costs. I’m not sure what one actually does while working at information search engine and entertainment corporation google. Apparently riding bikes and taking yoga classes? Or is it to be so intertwined with the neighborhood that everyone can just bike to their cubicle? There better be real and not photoshopped storks and herons showing up in that engineered wetlands required for the, no doubt, LEED platinum this building wants to achieve.

  2. Leftbanker March 3, 2015 at 3:22 am #

    I would take my block of apartments here in Spain over this monstrosity. Why do we keep trying to find a solution to a problem we solved centuries ago? By this I mean almost any city street in Europe where you can walk everywhere to effect every aspect of your daily life should be our model. It’s also a very affordable solution, not to mention sustainable. Taking things a step further, we could definitely live without cars in my neighborhood without too much of a disruption.

  3. PeteAtomic March 3, 2015 at 10:30 am #

    I’m confused as to why the people in the photo can’t bike or do yoga outside? Isn’t it in California, somewhere?

    The whole thing would be so much nicer if they just took off the saran wrap (or whatever that stuff is) off everything, and just made a little village out of it.

    It’s nice that they found Bob Dylan to make a cameo in the bottom picture there, though 🙂 Although I doubt he’d be caught dead in a place like this.

  4. dclacy March 3, 2015 at 3:50 pm #

    Why does it remind me of an airport terminal?

  5. malthuss March 5, 2015 at 10:42 am #

    Google = Gov. They are in cahoots.

  6. Toby Bo March 8, 2015 at 6:52 am #

    Looks like a dome after liposuction now showing a hip bone.There is a giant condom on the building that is textured for pleasure.The structure is humping under the covers that is not interfering with their career.Google is sex in the city with Android hookup culture.Now with yoga party instead of toga party.Endless money pumping will keep the bouncy castle inflated.Winslow Homer’s Snap the Whip is now Hipster Couple Plan the Shag.Medical marijuana is a landcape shrub maintained by historic crop attendants no racism revealed on canvas.

  7. MDG March 9, 2015 at 10:43 am #

    Being a fan of cheesy science fiction movies, my first thought was that the proposed Google HQ looks like a clear Blob has attacked it.

    Beyond that, the depictions of hipsters doing yoga and bicycling inside their workplace, while outside a hipster couple (miniskirt for her, untucked flannel shirt for him, natch) stroll casually through the gardens, suggests that Google does not see its workplace as somewhere that people go to do their jobs before leaving for home, but rather, their home. It seems that in return for all this groovy stuff, Google expects its employees to spend most of their lives at work.

    Isn’t “Slavery” the word for that sort of thing?

  8. neilmkearns March 9, 2015 at 5:21 pm #

    Also, shortsightedly (especially for an enlightened information aggregator like Google) is the lack of accounting for the rapid sea level rise that all the sciencey types are squawking about. It’s at 5 feet above sea level as of 1980 topographic data. Sea level is expected to rise exponentially from this point on, perhaps a couple inches per year.

  9. Lidia17 March 10, 2015 at 9:14 pm #

    I would be afraid to do yoga on this sort of exposed platform. Those figures make me nervous! I can’t believe the person drawing this thought it looked pleasant.

  10. Anuran March 13, 2015 at 1:25 pm #

    It reminds me of a megamall food court, with less charm. Probably less food, too, or maybe none.

    I’m not sure that the people on that mezzanine thing are doing yoga.I thought maybe it was some ritual, ceremonial or religious dance to the gods Page and Brin. That may be the full-time job of those people.

  11. S.Hamilton March 15, 2015 at 5:03 am #

    Hey Kunstler, shouldn’t the “Eyesore of the Month” be a building that actually exists? The last few months you keep showing us drawings of proposed projects. You’ve made it pretty clear that you have one single idea of what a building should look like (bricks, two stories, columns, no parking lot) but shouldn’t you at least wait until a building exists before you label it an “eyesore”?

  12. Callicrates March 19, 2015 at 1:52 pm #

    Bjarke Ingels is just the latest charlatan who has built a brand around novelty value. His work has little, if anything, to do with architecture, and even less to do with ‘place making’. As long as a gullible public and its decision makers mistake or confuse “weird shape” for “sophisticated architecture”, the likes of Bjarke Ingels, Daniel Libeskind, Steven Holl, Peter Eisenman, et al, will continue to get major projects that undermine the state of design. A greater tragedy is that these brash, showy, but intellectually crass imposters are allowed to teach impressionable students, thereby degrading the possibility of a future for architecture at all.

  13. hiruitnguyse March 21, 2015 at 11:43 pm #

    I thought of the NSC over Chernobyl at first glance.

  14. CHenry March 29, 2015 at 8:40 pm #

    Die Duschhaube.

  15. pequiste March 30, 2015 at 8:34 am #

    Hmmm…proposed exterior looking great for a new, exciting E-ticket “experience” at any Di$ney “facility.” Either that or what your local landfill will look like camouflaged with a nifty recycled styrofoam and glass cover.
    The interior encapsulates the ontological position of “Technotronic hypercapital’s weltangshaung – ennui. A birdcage for humans.

  16. AKlein March 30, 2015 at 3:24 pm #

    Who knows the message these moneyed buffoons and their starchitectural handmaidens are trying to convey. Is there even a message? Apple’s got the spaceship and Google’s got a diaphanous blob.Glory. IF they really wanted to show their technological savvy they would make the exterior look like a simple British police box.

  17. Ishabaka May 1, 2015 at 2:18 pm #

    Isn’t that a hothouse design? It’s sunny in California, won’t it get hot inside? I see no roof vents to let hot air out.

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