Future Buildings Of: Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Nvidia (+Video)

Amazon (4 Photos)
Apple (5Photos) (1 Video)
Facebook (3Photos)
Google (1Photo)
Nvidia (2 Photos)

Amazon.com is charting a new course for one of its proposed downtown Seattle office buildings, unveiling new drawings this week which show a massive spherical greenhouse-like structure capable of housing multiple forms of plant life as well as mature trees. And, yes, of course, throngs of Amazon workers will be permitted too. The new proposal, which will be discussed at a Design Review Boardmeeting tonight at Seattle City Hall, is a radical departure from the company’s previous design for a rectangular structure on the so-called “Rufus 2.0″ block. The new biosphere building would be built in conjunction with Amazon.com’s adjoining skyscraper project. The goal of the new spherical space is to create an environment where employees can “work and socialize in a more natural, park-like setting,” according to documents released in front of tonight’s meeting. “The generative idea is that a plant-rich environment has many positive qualities that are not often found in a typical office setting,” according to the design documents. “While the form of the building will be visually reminiscent of a greenhouse or conservatory, plant material will be selected for its ability to co-exist in a microclimate that also suits people,” the documents continue. “To encourage growth and maintain the health of the plants, the building’s interior will include high bay spaces on five floors totaling approximately 65,000 SF and capable of accommodating mature trees.”


Late last year Apple purchased a 98-acre campus from Hewlett Packard, in Cupertino. On Tuesday, Apple CEO Steve Jobs, explained Apple’s plans to the Cupertino City Council. Here’s what the new 4-story building holding 12,000 employees will look like, when it’s completed in 2015.
As Steve describes it:
“It’s a pretty amazing building. It’s a little like a spaceship landed. It’s got this gorgeous courtyard in the middle… It’s a circle. It’s curved all the way around. If you build things, this is not the cheapest way to build something. There is not a straight piece of glass in this building. It’s all curved. We’ve used our experience making retail buildings all over the world now, and we know how to make the biggest pieces of glass in the world for architectural use. And, we want to make the glass specifically for this building here. We can make it curve all the way around the building… It’s pretty cool.”

Architect Frank Gehry is designing the new campus for social media giant Facebook, which claims it will be the largest open-plan office in the world. The building will accommodate 2800 engineers underneath a green roof on the edge of San Francisco Bay and construction could begin early next year. “I’m excited to work with Frank Gehry to design our new campus,” Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg posted on his own Facebook timeline. “The idea is to make the perfect engineering space: one giant room that fits thousands of people, all close enough to collaborate together. It will be the largest open floor plan in the world, but it will also have plenty of private, quiet spaces as well.” “The roof of the building will be a park that blends into the community with a long walking trail, a field and lots of places to sit. From the outside it will appear as if you’re looking at a hill in nature.”

Google occupies some of the most famous offices in the world—think cafés everywhere you look, treadmills with laptops attached to them, pool tables and bowling alleys, green buildings, and vegetable gardens—but not one of the places in which the company’s 35,000+ employees work has been built by the company. The core of the “Googleplex,” as the headquarters in Mountain View, California, is generally known, consists of a suburban office park once occupied by Silicon Graphics that Google remodeled to suit its needs; in New York, Google occupies (and owns) the enormous former Port Authority headquarters in Chelsea. The company has been similarly opportunistic around the world, taking over existing real estate and, well, Google-izing it. “We’ve been the world’s best hermit crabs: we’ve found other people’s shells, and we’ve improved them,” David Radcliffe, a civil engineer who oversees the company’s real estate, said to me. Under Radcliffe, the company’s home base in Mountain View has expanded to roughly 65 buildings. For the last year or two, Google has been toying with taking the plunge and building something from scratch. In 2011 it went so far as to hire the German architect Christophe Ingenhoven to design a brand new, super-green structure on a site next to the Googleplex, but that was a false start: the company abandoned the project a year later, when it decided to build in another part of Mountain View, closer to San Francisco Bay, and went looking for another architect. Now Google has partnered with the Seattle-based firm NBBJ, a somewhat more conventional choice. And the renderings of the new project, which Google has made available to Vanity Fair, show something that looks, at first glance, like an updated version of one of the many suburban office parks that Google has made a practice of taking over and re-doing for its own needs. The more you look at the complex, however, the more intriguing it is. The new campus, which the company is calling Bay View, consists of nine roughly similar structures, most of which will be four stories high, and all of which are shaped like rectangles that have been bent in the middle. The bent rectangles are arranged to form large and small courtyards, and several of the buildings have green roofs. All of the structures are connected by bridges, one of which will bring people directly to one of the green roofs that has been done up with an outdoor café and gathering space. And cars, the bane of almost every suburban office complex, including the Googleplex, are hidden away. What is really striking about this project, however, isn’t what the architecture will look like, about which renderings can show only so much anyway. It’s the way in which Google decided what it wanted and how it conveyed this to its architects. Google is, as just about everyone in the world now knows, the most voracious accumulator of data on the planet. When it decided to build a building, it did what it did best, which was to gather data. Google studied, and tried to quantify, everything about how its employees work, about what kind of spaces they wanted, about how much it mattered for certain groups to be near certain other groups, and so forth. A lot of this seems like a statement of the obvious, but then again, lots of data is. And architecture, which is so often form-driven, doesn’t necessarily suffer from a bit more attention to factors other than shapes. “We started not with an architectural vision but with a vision of the work experience,” Radcliffe said. “And so we designed this from the inside out.”

NVIDIA has unveiled plans for its new state-of-the-art, iconic 1M square-foot corporate headquarters, designed by Gensler. The design harmonizes smart functionality and a shape that connects with and inspires employees - a triangle, the fundamental building block of computer graphics. Efficient in every way, the design is thoughtful in its use of space, energy, and environment, and, of course, cost. NVIDIA plans to develop and construct headquarters in two phases, as part of its campus expansion in Santa Clara.

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