Letter from Silicon Valley: inside the finest tech workspaces
You’d be hard-pressed to find a cubicle in a typical Silicon Valley office. Dropbox has Lego and a music room (complete with a grand piano), Airbnb has its green living wall and War Room, Twitter has foosball tables and yoga studios, and Github has its speakeasy and Oval Office replica.
But it’s not just child’s play, as evidenced by the growing number of Silicon Valley companies enlisting architecture’s biggest names to dream up workspaces that match the titanic creative ambitions of its employees.
Facebook, for example, opened its new Menlo Park headquarters earlier this year: a 430,000 sq ft space designed by Frank Gehry, and billed as the largest open plan office in the world. The building is topped with a nine-acre green roof, with a walking trail and plenty of places where employees are encouraged to work, while taking advantage of California’s pleasant climate.
Elsewhere in the Valley, Apple’s late CEO Steve Jobs personally tapped Norman Foster for the tech giant’s new campus, currently in the works on a staggering 2.8 million sq ft site. Once complete, it will house up to 13,000 employees in a colossal ring-shaped structure - that’s since been dubbed the ‘Spaceship Campus’ - surrounding a vast outdoor park.
Not to be outdone, Google has turned to two high-profile names for its forthcoming Mountain View campus: British designer Thomas Heatherwick and Bjarke Ingels of Danish firm BIG. In a radical shift from immoveable concrete buildings, the company will create a modular campus using ‘lightweight block-like structures’. The flexible site will be capped with large, translucent canopies that control the interior climate while letting in light and air, and will house boast shops, restaurants, cafés and bike paths.
These workplaces become autonomous communities in themselves, where practically every need, desire and whim of staff are catered for (does anyone actually ever leave the Google campus, or its free, gourmet cafeteria for that matter?). It’s these utopic environments that fuel the creativity behind some of the most memorable and game-changing products today.
From start-ups to Goliaths, there’s no shortage of tech offices that encourage a healthy balance of work and play. Here, we take a tour of the finest workspaces in Silicon Valley.