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What are ‘Groundscrapers’?


7 min read

March 26, 2023


Table of Contents

What are Groundscrapers?

 Opposite to Skyscrapers, ‘Groundscapers’ are buildings that have more expanse horizontally. Their heights range from low to medium, and the large areas feature open spaces, gardens, and courtyards that help connect the inhabitants with the outside world, promoting a healthier lifestyle.  

Benefits of Groundscrapers

These low-rise structures are beneficial for their occupants and also for the surrounding environment and the urban set-up as a whole.

Here are some  benefits of its design:

1) Energy Efficiency

The energy consumption of a groundscraper is less as compared to that of a taller building. The minimal height facades free the structure of excessive heat of the sunlight, reducing their dependency on artificial means of cooling. 

2) Low Construction Costs

Groundscrapers hardly need the expensive construction materials that are typically required for high-rise buildings to build a strong foundation. The reason is the strong support that the groundscrapers already have due to their large expanse.

3) More Green Spaces

The inclusion of green open spaces becomes easier due to the linear coverage of the groundscrapers, producing a healthier and peaceful environment for the occupants. 

4) Easy evacuation during emergencies

A ground-scraper has multiple openings to allow people to escape in very less time during any disaster. The evacuation time would also be reduced by the short flight of stairs, made possible due to the low height of these structures.  

5) Interaction with the outer world

The users of a groundscape office would have the benefit of experiences different from mundane corporate life as the surroundings outside would be easily available to them.

6) Less impact on the skylines

With the increase in the construction of skyscrapers, the skyline of a city gets dominated and the monuments of historical importance lose their appeal. Groundscrapers on the other hand, are far away from leaving such an impact. 

Examples of Groundscrapers

One of the earliest concepts of groundscapers can be found in the design of Merchandise Mart of Chicago, built in the year 1930. Yes, you read that right. The trend of ‘groundscraping’ is not new. It has considerably been used in the 20th Century and can be seen in projects like The Pentagon in Washington DC, United States of America and Robin Hood Gardens public housing in London, United Kingdom.

The increasing trend of building groundscrapers, particularly by giant tech companies like Apple and Google, resolves the growing need for having open and healthier work environments where individuals can enjoy their work. 

Let’s have a look at some remarkable examples:

1. Apple Park, California, USA

Apple Park

The Californian spirit of being surrounded by and connected to nature is reflected in Apple’s ring-shaped office. Special care has been taken for staff experience and the surrounding environment through the design conceptualisation. The site’s open green spaces include nine thousand trees, trails, athletic fields, and a pond, enhancing a resident's ability to perform their job due to the uninterrupted connectivity to the natural surroundings. By successfully using its open space, it has been able to use nearly 17 megawatts of solar panels, making it completely reliant on renewable energy. No doubt it is certified as the largest LEED Platinum-certified office building in the continent of North America.

2. Google Headquarters, London, UK

Google Headquarters in London

 The eye-catching, wave-like pattern of the roof of this Google Headquarters provides natural sunlight to the interior of the building. In addition, the rainwater harvesting system helps reduce the building’s water usage. The enormous central atrium, which is lit by natural light, and the spacious outside courtyard provide for employee relaxation and interaction. The open-plan workspace offers its users a variety of working alternatives, including chairs, desks, and sofas. It, therefore, acts as a great example of how a groundscraper can benefit the working environment of an office. 

3. The Squaire, Frankfurt, Germany

The Squaire

Placed directly above the Frankfurt Airport Railway station, this unusually shaped building houses numerous office spaces, restaurants, shops, fitness services and two Hilton Hotels. It is noteworthy to see that while it only has 9 floors, a structure can provide such a wide variety of services, owing to its large expanse. Due to this, it is able to accommodate around 7,000 employees with about 2,00,000 travellers passing by everyday which includes business travellers, airport passengers, local residents and tourists. The building's open atrium also provides a communal space for visitors and employees to gather, fostering a sense of community within the building. Therefore, being a functional, efficient and a welcoming space for a variety of users, the Squair’s design effectively showcases the benefits of Groundscrapers. 

4. Vanke Headquarters, Shenzhen, China

Vanke Headquarters

 This multipurpose building spans a sizable area and accommodates a hotel, offices, apartments, and a spa. It stands out in terms of inviting various types of people including employees, residents and guests, while having a favourable effect on the neighbourhood. At the heart of the building, there is a large atrium that allows natural light and ventilation for the interiors. The roof contains solar panels, rainwater harvesting systems, and green spaces that improve the sustainability and air quality of the whole structure. Additionally, the open and flexible interior spaces with a neutral color palette create a calm and comfortable environment for the inhabitants. This makes it a good example of a Groundscraper as it successfully includes the surrounding environment with a welcoming and accessible space for the community. 

Potential Impact on the Future

The increased adoption of the concept of groundscrapers has the potential to drastically change the current urban set-up of high-rise buildings to minimal-storeyed, close-to-the-nature structures. Today, increasing user pleasure and incorporating more open and natural spaces are the main goals of any architectural building. This goes beyond the idea of a building design paying all the attention to the material aspects.

The architecture of the future demands a positive response to the needs of the natural environment as well as the mental well-being of an individual. Groundscrapers are structures that have the potential to cater to these.

On the other hand, considering the issues the Groundscrapers may provide, it does demand a lot of ground space, which will steadily shrink with the rising human growth. The fact that most of these enormous structures are mostly located outside of cities makes travelling there time-consuming, which forces architects to consider how to make groundscrapers more useful in the future. 

In Conclusion

Now that we have learned about groundscrapers, their usage, and the benefits they offer, we can conclude that they are not only masterpieces in terms of their structure but also in terms of the impact they leave on people and nature. Despite the challenges posed, we cannot ignore the fact that they indeed will play important roles in the future of urban design.

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