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Google Secret Barge Project : San Francisco

Golden Gate Bridge and logo merge

Google has been intensely secretive about three barges, currently moored in San Francisco and Portland, Maine, linked to the company.

However new documents have emerged that definitively link the internet giant to the barges and give an insight into how the vessels may look.

The documents, released under the US Freedom of Information Act, provide details about the barge in San Francisco, describing it as a 13,726 square-foot 'studios', able to move between different locations.

Email exchanges between port officials also reveal the extraordinary lengths that Google went to to try and hide details of the project.

Google announced earlier this week that it will use the structures as learning spaces for people to find out about new technology. 

google barge flickr Dennis Redfield






One of the Google barges under construction in Portland.  Image: Dennis Redfield

There had been speculation that the barges may be floating data centres, or floating showrooms for Google Glass with party decks.

Instead a report provided to officials at the Port of San Francisco as part of permit applications reveal that Google, though a company called By and Large LLC, hopes to turn the four story barges into tourist attractions.

It shows the barge will housing an atrium, a "welcoming area", exhibition space and "support facilities". 

The report states: "We believe this curious and visually stunning structure that will be a welcome addition to the waterfront; an experience unlike any other that celebrates community, local organisations and the history of the San Francisco Bay."

The vessel features sails created to look like 'fish fins' to remind visitors that they are on a "seaworthy vessel". However, the barge itself will be powered by large diesel engines.

It says the studio in San Francisco will be a temporary technology exhibit space that will be able to tour around the San Francisco bay area and other parts of the US over a one to two year period.

The vessel is expected to remain in the bay for the next year although it will move between piers – since it is not able to dock at one pier for more than a month at a time. 

It adds that the vessel is an opportunity to interact with different communities within the city and support the development of San Francisco as a technology centre.

san francisco jeff gunnIt says: "We envisage this space with community in mind – a surprint environment that is accessible to all and inspires conversation about how everything is connected – shore birds, me, you, the sea, fog and much more."

It adds that the "By and Large Studio" will help bring a "slightly different cohort of people" to the waterfront.

Permit applications submitted to the Port of San Francisco for By and Large, who are registered as the owners of the barges, also definitively tie Google to By and Large.

Google is listed as the sole member, or owner, of the company.

The roles of president, treasurer and secretary of By and Large are taken up by a James Marocco. Jim Marocco is Google's finance director.

Kenneth Yi is listed as By and Large's Assistant Secretary. He is also thought to hold a senior position at Google

By registering the barges to By and Large, Google has been able to maintain a degree of secrecy around the project.

In one email exchange between Google's lawyers and the Port of San Francisco officials, a lawyer asked if the name of a meeting invitation could be changed from "Discuss Google project" to "discuss barge project".

Documents released under the act reveal that the floating studio will be able to visit a variety of locations and are seeking docking sites that are "open to the public and easily accessible".

google logo flickr Robert ScobleDuring private events, and to accommodate high profile arrivals, guests will be able to board the barge from the water in small vessels. 

The vessel will be staffed by 50 people, including 37 "technology demonstration associates".

Google anticipates having approximately 1,000 visitors a day on the vessel according to the documents, but that it could also be used for private events after 10pm at night

The vessel will have a full time Barge Master, as well as other US coat Guard qualified mariners on board 24 hours a day.

There will be 24 hour a day security with more than 50 cameras on the vessel for "on-site monitoring".

Other security measures include alarm systems and duress buttons.  

Google estimates that the vessel will require four truck trips per day to deliver supplies, generator fuel and water as well as removing waste.

Google are using the architectural firm Lot-Ek to design the project which has designed installations for MoMA, and the Guggenheim.

An extensive document detailing how the vessel would operate and what would be inside it was submitted to the port authority by By and Large LLC- a company created by Google.

Google has only publicly released a short statement on the barges which said: "Google Barge ... A floating data centre? A wild party boat? A barge housing the last remaining dinosaur? Sadly, none of the above.

"Although it's still early days and things may change, we're exploring using the barge as an interactive space where people can learn about new technology." 

*Photos courtesy of Creative Commons:   Dennis Redfield, Jeff Gunn and Robert Scoble
*Original story : The Telegraph via Google News (search term: Google barge) 

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