When complete, Google’s new London headquarters will measure longer than the Shard — the tallest skyscraper in the United Kingdom — is tall. The Shard measures 1,016 feet tall. Google’s London headquarters is similar in size, but flipped on its side at 1,082 feet long.
The building’s architects — Bjarke Ingels Group and Heatherwick Studios — call it a “landscraper,” meaning it gains most of its size by stretching horizontally rather than vertically.
Google’s landscraper will be one of the first of its kind in the world. But futurist Amy Webb expects landscrapers to become more mainstream over the next 20 years in the United States.
“Landscrapers will create entirely new city footprints that we just haven’t seen yet in the US, and could make life easier and more realistic,” said Webb, who identifies socioeconomic, geopolitical, and business trends based on quantitative data.
Here’s what we can expect from the landscrapers of the future.
Four major trends point toward landscrapers, Webb said.
The first is a growing migration from America’s densest centers, like New York City and San Francisco, to cities with more undeveloped land, like Austin, Texas and Phoenix, Arizona. Webb predicts that landscrapers will thrive in metros with more sprawl since there will be more room to build them.
“We will be freed to locate new economic centers and expand outward, not upward,” she said. “There’s no reason that other cities — in what most people would consider flyover states — now, in 2017, can’t decide that, by 2030, we are going to become America’s hub for X, which could be biotech, agriculture, genome editing, etc.”
Recent innovations in elevator technology will also make it easier to navigate landscrapers. In June, German manufacturer Thyssenkrupp announced that it had created a cable-less elevator that not only moves up and down — but sideways as well.
In addition, investors and tech companies are pouring a tremendous amount of money into autonomous drone technology, especially for transporting goods. Amazon, for example, unveiled its plans to deliver packages by drone earlier this year.
In the coming years, Webb expects delivery drones to crowd urban skies. To cope, local governments will likely need to regulate their airways, which could include limiting building heights.
“We’re going to have more things flying overhead,” she said. “The challenge is that the overhead airspace is not regulated, but it will wind up becoming regulated. We’ll have invisible highways in the sky.”
Lastly, climate change-driven weather events like hurricanes are becoming more frequent and aggressive. In the future, it will become increasingly risky to build high-rises, which can sway several feet in extreme wind, Webb said.
“Climate change events are not a blip,” she said. “What that tells us is that the current economic centers of American life are located in areas that some time in the near future will suffer from climate-related problems.”
Set to start construction in 2018, Google’s 11-story landscraper will span 1 million square feet and house 7,000 employees when complete.