Facebook Moves Into Huge, Frank Gehry-Designed HQ

1 Apr 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Facebook’s glamorous new headquarters will make you hate your cubicle.

MENLO PARK (CBS SF) – Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg took to his on social network Monday afternoon to announce the formal opening of the company’s massive new building in Menlo Park.

The office complex was designed by famed architect Frank Gehry and includes modern artwork and furniture, stairwells that look like something out of the Guggenheim museum, a 9-acre rooftop park (hate where you work yet?) and at least one meeting room that looks like the multicolored Chuck E. According to Zuckerberg, the building includes “the largest open floor plan in the world – a single room that fits thousands of people.” “There are lots of small spaces where people can work together, and it’s easy for people to move around and collaborate with anyone here. The new building – which features a nine acre living roof – sits across the street from the company’s main headquarters building and is the 20th facility on the campus of the social network. The social media giant’s vice president of global real state, John Tenanes, told Wired that “you can pretty much see all the way down the building.” The building is topped with a sprawling nine-acre park, complete with walking trails and green spaces. According to Wired, it blends with the lowlands of Menlo Park, similar to how New York City’s High Line garden complements the urban landscape in Chelsea and the Manhattan Meatpacking District.

Facebook’s headquarters, in particular, is intended to house about 2,800 people — using the word “house” literally here, as the space is filled with enough nice perks to ensure that employees feel comfortable staying on campus longer. But as Silicon Valley bursts at its suburban seams, one tech company after another has been buying up properties throughout the region and embarking on ambitious development projects.

Facebook isn’t putting out many official pictures of the headquarters as employees are still moving in, but many employees and visitors have shared photos of the space on Instagram and Facebook. Apple Inc.’s construction of a new “spaceship”-like campus that features a $161-million underground auditorium for press events is well underway.

Check out the rest of the photos at #MPK20firstlook I’ll be posting more throughout the day. ✌️ While the design is easy on the eyes, it has nonetheless managed to spark some controversy. While most agree that it’s important to strike a balance between stoking collaboration and enabling focus, there’s little consensus on how best to do so. Some argue that open office plans make employees less productive by forcing them to work in noisy environments with no privacy, while others think that open office plans paired with noise-canceling headphones work just fine.

The most charitable interpretation of all this is that Facebook is building the first arcology, like what the fantasist architect Paolo Soleri described and halfway (well, eighth-way) built at Arcosanti, his own little urban microcosm in the Arizona desert. The company is really just creating a version of the company town, something that was all the rage among wealthy industrialists in the early 20th century.

Pullman, having grown sick of his employees complaining about things like wages, working conditions, and so on, decided that the solution to unruly employees was to build a nice town and then require them to live in it. Many of these were founded, like Pullman, “in order to improve workers’ conditions and avoid tensions and workers’ labor activism,” says Marcelo Borges, a historian at Dickinson College and expert on company towns. But many were strict fathers, dictating the minutiae of their grown employees’ lives, from picking the books in the library to restricting the availability of alcohol.

It’s hard to imagine Facebook going that far, though the company does try to subtly influence its employees lives by offering such healthy freebies as on-site gyms, bike repair, and walking desks. It’s a strategy that mimics what happened with some later company towns, which employed paternalism to better the company, not just employees’ lives. “Company welfare was seen as an important strategy to promote company loyalty and peaceful relations,” Borges says. Now, a development of under 400 units may not seem like much in a city of 33,000 people, but keep in mind the company currently employs 4,600 people at its current headquarters, and its flashy new Gehry office building will have space for 2,800. In the last municipal election, just over 10,000 ballots were cast from 17,000 registered voters, a turnout which was “unusually high,” according to poll workers. It’s a 21st century company town—built by slowly, occasionally unintentionally, taking over a public entity, and building a juggernaut of a private institution in its place.

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