Building Like A Meadow – A building designed for flexibility over time

Designed as a build-to-suit for Gap Inc, 901 Cherry is now the home of YouTube LLC, a Google-owned company, illustrating that a building design as a flexible and adaptable organism can successfully adapt to new user groups.

YouTube Headquarters,
San Bruno, California

Occupants feel as though they are spending the day outside, enjoying abundant daylight, fresh air at their control and multiple views of the outdoors. Loft-like openness and generous common spaces encourage both planned and informal interaction, creating a strong sense of community. The undulating 70,000 square foot roof is covered in native grasses and wildflowers, echoing the coastal savannah ecosystem. While responding to the surrounding terrain, this grass roof reduces stormwater from the site, provides tempering thermal mass, protects the roof membrane, and dampens noise from the nearby airport.

The building integrates many innovative design strategies, including raised flooring, displacement ventilation, operable windows and extensive daylighting, all justified through rigorous cost-benefit analyses. As a result of its unique advanced integration of building systems, Pacific Gas and Electric has recognized the building as the second-most energy-efficient office building in the state.


Gap Inc.


Corporate campus and offices


195,000 square feet


Completed 1997


William McDonough + Partners, Design Architect
William Wilson, Developer
Webcor Builders, Contractor
Gensler, Architect of Record, Interior Design Architect
Arup, Structural Engineer, MEP Engineer
Loisos + Ubbelohde, Daylight + Lighting
Hargreaves Associates, Landscape Architect
Rana Creek, Living Roof Consultant

Awards + Certifications

Green Roofs for Healthy Cities Green Roof Award of Excellence, 2003
I.D. Magazine, I.D. FORTY, February 2001
Savings By Design Energy Efficiency Award, 2000
AIA DC Award of Excellence, 2000
Business Week/Architectural Record, Good Design is Good Business Award, 1998