The Hughes H-4 Hercules is the largest flying boat ever created. Nicknamed the Spruce Goose (though it was actually made of birch), it only ever flew once, back in 1947, for exactly one minute. For the next half century or so, it stood happily in Playa Vista, a few blocks north of Venice Beach, Los Angeles.
Back in the early 1990s, the Spruce Goose has had to find itself a new nest, after investors honed in on a slice of prime real estate. The building was left pretty much unloved for a decade or two, until just recently, when ZGF Architects developed the huge, seven-storey hangar into a swanky workplace for Google and YouTube employees.
ZGF created a four-floor “building within a building”, blending old and new by keeping the wooden exterior intact as much as possible while completely reworking the wide-open spaces of the interior.
Opened earlier this autumn, the new structure looks like a classic ocean liner, with the connecting bridges, ramps and walkways making use of space and light to open up the building, but never to the extent of feeling lost or overawed.
Workspaces, meeting rooms, cafes and hospitality areas all pay subtle tribute to the building’s past (it was first built on the orders of Howard Hughes, owner of the sea boat).
Google originally leased the building in 2016, buying up 12 acres of adjacent land. The new office is three times the size of the company’s offices around the corner in Venice.
And the Spruce Goose? That can now be found at the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum, just outside Portland, Oregon. It travelled up there by truck, of course.
The tech giant’s stunning LA workspace was once home to Howard Hughes’ legendary flying boat