Google mystery barge to be "artistic" high tech exhibition venue

Reuters

By Alexei Oreskovic

SAN FRANCISCO, Nov 8 (Reuters) - Able-bodied seamen,decorative sails meant to evoke fish fins and dozens of securitycameras will eventually make up the on-board complement of amysterious four-story barge being built by Internet companyGoogle Inc.

The barge is actually a "technology exhibition space," thatGoogle will move between several piers in the San Francisco Bayarea and other West coast locations over the next two years,according to a 36-page information packet submitted in August tothe Port of San Francisco.

"We believe this curious and visually stunning structurewill be a welcome addition to the waterfront; an experienceunlike any other that celebrates community, local organizationsand the history of San Francisco," reads the document, whichlists the project as being spearheaded by By and Large LLC.

The floating structure built of stacked shipping containers,and a twin vessel in Portland, Maine, have stirred intensespeculation about their purpose ever since reports of theirexistence surfaced last month. Reports have theorized that thebarges could be anything from floating water-cooled data centersto retail stores to luxury party venues.

Google has gone to great lengths to keep the details of thebarges secret, requiring at least one U.S. Coast Guard employeeto sign a non-disclosure agreement.

On Wednesday, Google finally acknowledged that it wasinvolved in the barges, saying it was, "exploring using thebarge as an interactive space where people can learn about newtechnology," but noting that plans could change.

Among the issues still to be ironed out are whether thestructure will require permits from the San Francisco BayConservation and Development Commission.

The hulking steel structure, still under construction andcurrently moored on a pier in San Francisco's Treasure Island,is somewhat unsightly at the moment. But Google envisions it asan "unprecedented artistic structure" that will have a dash of"nautical whimsy," according to the information packet, whichReuters obtained through a request under the city's sunshineact.

The shipping containers will house a 13,276 square footstudio space, along with a rooftop deck and catwalks.

The vessel, which will be open from 10am to 10pm, will holdtechnology demonstrations on the second and third floors.

"The structure will stand out but at the same time willcomplement its surroundings with decorative sails that provideshade and shelter to the guests," the document states. "Thesails are reminiscent of fish fins which will remind visitorsthat they are on a seaworthy vessel."

The barge will navigate the bay with the aid of tugboats,with plans to moor at San Francisco's Fort Mason, Pier 48 andAngle Island. A power generator and a 5,000 gallon diesel fueltank will be stored on the pier.

A crew of 50 will tend to the vessel and studio, including afull-time Barge Master, "two able-bodied seamen and one ordinaryseaman," as well as 37 "technology demonstration associates" andseven security guards.

More than 50 security cameras throughout the vessel willalso provide "on-site monitoring."

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