Words by Casey Gordon | October 20, 2016

Two buildings, 23 stories, and 338,000 square feet.

That’s the stat line for Google’s art-filled San Francisco expansion, which began in July 2014 with the purchase of 188 Embarcadero, an 88,000 square foot building with pristine waterfront views on all sides. Google also leased 250,000 square feet across fifteen floors of the 42-story Spear Tower.

Both of the new locations are situated in the iconic Embarcadero — a short walk from the three-floor Google office at 345 Spear Street that has been open since 2007.

So what prompted Google to ramp up their Bay Area presence? There is some obvious upside to a large footprint in the middle of one of the world’s best cities for startups and venture capital, especially when it comes to recruitment.

But that’s barely the tip of the iceberg.

At the heart of the bigger and better Google San Francisco is a mission that runs much deeper than the ever-competitive search for tech talent: to be a responsible, collaborative, and authentic member of the broader San Francisco community.

The cornerstone of this mission is to honor local artists by incorporating their work into the new office spaces. Debra Walker, who completed eleven elevator lobby murals depicting different San Francisco neighborhoods, highlights that “it’s not just about bringing our art in, but about encouraging the workers to come out and experience San Francisco.”

In addition to the art, the spaces are designed to pay homage to the city’s character and history. For example, Google’s 4th floor Sage Cafe is named for Sibella Kraus, the activist who spearheaded the creation of the beloved Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market.

The whole space makes frequent use of biophilia, incorporating tilted trunks and branches as light fixtures to evoke the feel of an urban public park. In this way the nature-rich office spaces act as an extension of, not an escape from, San Francisco city life.

Rebecca Prozan, Google Bay Area’s Chief of Public Affairs, describes the incredible completed space: “You have all of this together engineering and art all melding into one. That is what San Francisco is supposed to be right? A city for everyone. We will continue to be embedded in our neighborhoods and our communities. It is important to us and we want people to know that we care.”