Media Studies: Google hopes to wow us with a new HQ but it may take more than that

The “Googleplex” site makes deliberate attempts at every turn to reinforce a corporate culture

Share

There are many museum buildings that attempt to recreate how we lived in the past but Google will this week try to show how we will live in the future. Google House, which is being established in a property in London’s media district of Fitzrovia, north of Oxford Street, will give an insight into how gadgetry and gizmos (including Google Glass spectacles and the Chromecast video streaming dongle) might impact on the living rooms and kitchens of the next few years. It’s a 2020 vision, you might say.

But when we think of the future and Google, we should be looking not to a house in Fitzrovia but to a £1bn development behind the capital’s King’s Cross railway station, where the company is creating what will be one of the modern landmarks of the British media.

When it opens in 2016, it will be a physical symbol that the online age is upon us – the first real statement building by an internet company in the United Kingdom and the sort of thing we used to associate with big publishers. One thinks of the Art Deco Daily Express building in Fleet Street or the towering old Daily Mirror offices at Holborn Circus (now demolished).

The Google UK headquarters, which will range from seven to 11 storeys, is being designed by architects Allford Hall Monaghan Morris, which created the Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea. It promises to be both state of the art and sustainable. The cost of the project is comparable with the BBC’s Broadcasting House redevelopment. The offices will enable Google to double its UK workforce, which currently stands at around 2,000.

Until now the company’s presence in the UK has been largely restricted to what we see on our personal computers and mobile devices. Its old headquarters in London’s Victoria was almost invisible and its current site near Covent Garden is shared with other companies.

Google’s profile in the UK has been deeply affected by its decision in 2008 to move its European headquarters to Ireland in order to minimise its tax bill. When we think of its relationship with the UK now, it tends to be in terms of tax avoidance. Last year, the company paid only £11.6m on UK revenues of £506m.

But the King’s Cross expansion may help with that. A positive article in Property Week, describing the deal as “one of the greatest in UK property history”, noted that the Treasury would be pleased by the prospect of new tax contributions from a beefed-up Google workforce of around 4,500 on good salaries. New jobs are expected to be created in a range of disciplines, including engineering, sales and marketing, legal services, public relations and human resources. There will also be an enhanced version of the YouTube Creator Club that gives specialist film-makers the space and facilities to work on their video channels.

Although the new building will be positioned above a range of shops, cafés and restaurants, the 1,000,000sq-ft King’s Cross site is big enough to bring something of the campus feel that we associate with Google’s global HQ at Mountain View in Silicon Valley, California.

Anyone who visits the “Googleplex” site, as I did last year, is struck by the deliberate attempts at every turn to reinforce a corporate culture (albeit one that embraces a neo-hippy value system). It’s an extraordinary place. Alongside the labs and special pods for power napping, there are model space ships, dinosaur sculptures and beach volleyball courts. It’s somewhere between an elite academic institution and a kids’ adventure playground, where Googlers can go downstairs on a metal slide and travel between buildings on communal bicycles painted in the company’s primary colour scheme. No decision has been taken on whether these bikes will start showing up around King’s Cross.

The once notorious inner-city London neighbourhood, famed as a magnet for hard drug users and the long-term homeless, is enjoying a renaissance. The Google project is part of a much wider development which will rebrand the neighbourhood as the capital’s “Knowledge Quarter”. That scheme is due to launch early next year and will group the UK Googleplex with the nearby British Library, Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design, Francis Crick Institute for medical research and Guardian Media Group.

The cluster of research, science, cultural, media and academic institutions is intended to be a hub for more such organisations, bringing “investment, innovation and regeneration”, I am told. Google is a valuable addition to that mix – but the internet giant will also benefit from being in an environment of British expertise. Let’s hope it pays its way.

 

Desmond’s ‘Star’ lets the side down on Maddie

According to an increasingly popular narrative, the chilling atmosphere of the post-Leveson climate has caused a crisis of confidence in the red tops: they have lost their je ne sais quoi, claim some tabloid veterans.

But there are no such inhibitions at Richard Desmond’s Daily Star, which has lately embraced an editorial style that makes the National Enquirer seem like a paper of record. “Killer spider lived in my head” was Friday’s nonsensical front-page splash story about a Sussex sculptor who felt an arachnid go into his ear and then up his nostril, before he sneezed it into the sink.

More seriously for a paper that contributed to the 100-plus defamatory articles which led to Express Newspapers paying £550,000 in damages to the parents of Madeleine McCann, the Star’s recent coverage of the search for the missing schoolgirl has been hysterical. “‘Maddie’ found in Greece” (its splash headline for 19 October) was followed by “‘Maddie’ found in Ireland” (front-page lead for 23 October), as false hopes were spread in the knowledge that they would deliver a circulation boost.

“Maddie’s snatcher killed by a tractor” was its emphatic  front-page headline last Thursday, reporting Portuguese media claims that the McCann family described as “pure speculation”. As the press tries to convince the public that it can be trusted to behave responsibly without the need for meddling by politicians, the rest of the industry can’t be impressed.

 

Yahoo! goes for a right royal substitution

Poor Prince Charles. Branded “The Forgotten Prince” in a recent profile by Time magazine, he has been omitted from the publicity shot for a new animation series on the Royal Family – and substituted by Stephen Fry.

The six-part Yes Ma’am is a British comedy commission for Yahoo! The internet giant’s previous venture into UK comedy was Boris Johnson’s Alternative Guide to London, starring outlandish impersonator Marek Larwood. Disturbingly, many Yahoo! users thought he actually was Boris.

Yes Ma’am is based on the spoof @Queen_UK Twitter account, which has over a million followers but is about as funny as one of Prince Harry’s fancy dress outfits. Harry appears as a bare-chested warrior. I’m not sure why Fry is there. But a highlight will be Kate Robbins voicing the Queen, as she once did on the 1980s TV satire Spitting Image. Yes Ma’am starts on 15 November.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Account Executive/Sales Consultant – Permanent – Hertfordshire - £16-£20k

£16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

KS2 PPA Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Worthing!

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal  

What is 4Chan? And why does it threaten women like Emma Watson?

Memphis Barker
Chuka Umunna was elected MP for Streatham in 2010  

Could flirty Chuka Umunna be worth a punt for Labour’s top job?

Matthew Norman
Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

BBC Television Centre

A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
Lonesome George: Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains

My George!

Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains
10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Pack up your troubles: 10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Off on an intrepid trip? Experts from student trip specialists Real Gap and Quest Overseas recommend luggage for travellers on the move
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world