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Google Shorebird

Location
Mountain View, CA
Lighting Designer
Melinda Morrison Lighting in collaboration with Illuminosa

Background

What happens when a tech giant renowned for spectacular workspaces finds itself with three less-than-inspirational buildings? Architects Studio Sarah Willmer Architecture and Interiors teamed up with Sidell Pakravan Architects and rose to the challenge. They brought excitement to the space by creating a daring concept called the "caterpillar", which depended on lighting designer Melinda Morrison to bring it to life.

Our job was to give spatial ideation and excitement to their functional needs. We brought in light and daylight elements to align with their interest in biophilia.”
Sarah Willmer
Sarah Willmer Architecture and Interiors

Design Goals

  1. Bring light and dynamism to a dark and lifeless space
  2. Link the three buildings and a wide range of spaces, from work stations and conference rooms to micro-kitchens, lounges and breakout areas
  3. Embody principles that honor the client’s commitment to biophilia
  4. Fulfill the needs of multiple users and stakeholders

Challenges

The nearly universal challenges of time and budget were amplified on this project due to the innovativeness of the team’s design solution — they had to quickly choose a technique to make something none of them had ever done before. Budget and building concerns also forced them to give up skylights, although Ketra’s high-quality, tunable lighting helped replicate the natural light they were seeking. The designers also struggled with the “too much of a good thing” paradox: because Ketra’s lighting offers an infinite range of color, the team had the positive challenge of landing on the perfect hues to provide the vibrant visual interest that they wanted, without veering into a Disneyland or Las Vegas type of feel. 

 I initially brought in a competitor’s product, but it simply did not have enough power. Ketra had the range of beam spreads needed to adapt to the changing shapes of our installation, and a full color range to match the designers’ sophisticated color palette.

Melinda Morrison
Melinda Morrison Lighting
Lobby area of Google Shorebird workspace
Lobby area of Google Shorebird workspace

The Solution

To link the spaces and foster a feeling of fluidity, the team came up with an innovative design form. A custom-crafted frame was covered in fabric and lit from within, creating a unique path guide. Because this “caterpillar” was intentionally not continuous and shifted in size for visual interest, consistent lighting seemed like an insurmountable task, until they discovered Ketra’s lighting. With its unparalleled light distribution, Ketra’s G2 Lamp proved to be the perfect solution. The uniform color wash and lack of hot spots produced by these lights ensured the continuous feel desired by the designers.

But the designers — and Ketra — didn’t stop there. Since skylights weren’t an option, the team did some “inside-the-box” thinking, and created eleven custom acrylic light boxes featuring 7’ runs of Ketra L4Rs in the negative space above breaks in the fabric sections. Taking advantage of Ketra’s superior control system and full range of color, these novel “skylights” automatically change hue throughout the day, incorporating the principles of biophilia in addition to signaling daily routines such as lunch hour and company shuttle departures. The designers also included a “party mode” program of light that incorporates red and rainbow colors. This bolder, more unique look is perfect for spotlighting special events such as all-hands meetings.

Custom light boxes lit in two different colors hang outside a conference room at the Google Shorebird workspace
Custom light boxes lit in two different colors hang outside a conference room at the Google Shorebird workspace

The lighting in this project was critical. Without that, we would not have had the dynamism. The form would have been beautiful, but it would not have the unique luminous nature that Ketra provided.

Kristen Sidell
Sidell Pakravan Architects

Results

Ketra’s onsite technician facilitated a full range of light testing, enabling the design team to perfectly capture the look and feel they had envisioned during the project’s planning process. The result was a sophisticated, dynamic space that captured the company’s innovative essence while delighting building users with its functionality and beauty.

Project photography by Bruce Damonte.
Products Used
L4R Recessed Linear
G2 Linear
X2 Keypad
N3 Satellite
N4 Hub