Facebook is planning to move from the virtual to the physical world with its latest venture: a 394-unit infill housing development known as Anton Menlo. The company is collaborating (in an advisory role) with California developer St. Anton Partners and architecture firm KTGY on the project, located on 10 acres of former industrial land near Marsh Road in Menlo Park. The development is within walking distance of Facebook’s headquarters and new West Campus. The $120 million development will include 35 studio apartments, 208 one-bedrooms, 139 two-bedroom apartments, and 12 three-bedroom apartments. Fifty-three of the units are reserved for low-income applicants, and Facebook's funding will cover the gap between market and reduced rent for 15 of these apartments, per an agreement between the company and the City of Menlo Park. All of the apartments will be open to the general public. Proposed transit-oriented developments include the extension of a local bike path to the new housing, plus improved pedestrian sidewalks and crosswalks. Residents will also have access to an on-site bicycle repair shop and bike storage. Anton Menlo has passed zoning approval and is currently under design review by the City of Menlo Park. Construction, which will last approximately 24 months, will begin this fall.
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Frank Gehry, who is currently working on Facebook's new Silicon Valley campus in Menlo Park, California, will design a new office for the company's New York-based engineering team at 770 Broadway in Manhattan. The move will nearly double the company's current workspace. In a note from Serkan Piantino, Facebook New York's engineering team site director, the new offices will share many of the same features of Facebook’s California headquarters, but with a twist that is uniquely New York. Approximately 100,000 square feet across two floors will be updated with open, collaborative spaces, conference rooms, cozy and casual work areas, writeable surfaces, and integrated video conferencing equipment. There are also plans to build out a full service kitchen for Facebook employees. At 770 Broadway, Facebook will join tenants AOL/Huffington Post, Adweek, JCrew, and Structure Tone. The move from their current offices at 335 Madison Avenue is scheduled for early 2014 under a 10-year lease with building owners Vornado Realty Trust.
Perhaps trying to regain its mojo after a difficult summer on the stock market, Facebook has selected Frank Gehry to design an expansion to its Menlo Park Campus in California. The project, scheduled to break ground next year, will include a quirky 420,000-square-foot warehouse topped by a sprawling garden. The cavernous space will contain open offices for as many as 2,800 software engineers, according to Everett Katigbak, Facebook's environmental design manager. The firm wouldn't reveal the project's price tag. Facebook is relatively new to Menlo Park, having moved from Palo Alto last year into a Gensler-designed retrofit of Sun Microsystems' old campus. The Gehry building will be located just across the street. Other tech giants will be located nearby as well: Foster and Partners' new ring-shaped offices for Apple are about 25 minutes away in Cupertino. And Google's "Googleplex" is located about 20 minutes away in Mountain View. Google has yet to name the architect for its latest expansion after firing Ingenhoven Architects earlier this year. Looks like we've got an architectural arms race in Silicon Valley. You've been poked, Google. [ Via LA Times.]
At NeoCon this year, IIDA (International Interior Design Association) presented copies of What Clients Want, the first-ever study of the client/designer relationship told from the point of view of the client, written and edited by Melissa Feldman, IIDA's executive vice president. IIDA CEO Cheryl Durst called it "a groundbreaking account of how some C-suite executives have been able to alter their companies' destinations through design [by] firms who got inside their corporate DNA and pushed them to be better." Durst is referring to companies like Autodesk, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, the Cowboys Stadium, and Facebook, which enlisted the services of Primo Orpilla and Verda Alexander of Studio O+A, a husband and wife duo who have designed interiors for a roster of "techie brands" like Aol, eBay, Microsoft, and PayPal. In 2008, O+A was commissioned to consolidate Facebook's spread of ten office buildings in Palo Alto, California, and merge them into Hewlett Packard's former HQ. Studio O+A credits the extensive research they conduct on potential clients prior to any design work for landing the gig.
We want to learn what our clients are about and understand their sensibilities, because if our end result doesn't reflect them, it's not going to be successful or meaningful. Sometimes it's just a matter of talking to the entrepreneurs…other times we observe them for a while.So what did they learn? Facebook, with its well known, humble beginnings in a college dorm room, is not about flash or excess. The primary goal was to create a collaborative, flexible, and comfortable space for the company's "scrappy and entrepreneurial" employees, as Facebook's communication designer, Everett Katigbak, described them. That meant a lot of repurposing existing pieces and spaces so that "nothing is deigned as a pristine or precious moment…Overall it's pretty raw and industrial with more of a garage or laboratory feel." O+A responded with nooks equipped with chessboards and by converting a loading dock into a skateboard ramp. Both Katigbak and O+A agreed that the design process went smoothly, but by the time What Clients Want was published, Facebook had already outgrown their facility and relocated to Sun Micro System's former campus in Menlo Park. They hired Gensler for the renovation, not Studio O+A—a testament to Facebook's hyper-evolution and obsession with "the new," or evidence that perhaps the road to design was a little more rocky than either side will admit? Either way, it's not included in the designer/client conversation Melissa Feldman chronicled in What Clients Want. There are thirteen more, which IIDA's Durst said is the first in a series of limited edition books that will focus on "key vertical markets, starting with hospitality." For What Clients Want, 3M donated their DI-NOC Architectural Finish Material for the cover designed by the NY-based design firm, Pure+Applied.
Mayor Bloomberg was in Singapore last Wednesday to accept the Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize for sustainable planning, but it was the mayor's comments on social media got the most play in The New York Times and the New York Post. “I think this whole world has become a culture of 'me now,' rather than for my kids later on," he was quoted as saying. "Social media is going to make it even more difficult to make long-term investments. We are basically having a referendum on every single thing that we do every day, and it’s very hard for people to stand up and say, ‘No, no. This is what we’re going to do’ when there’s constant criticism and an election process.” Indeed. Two of the projects that Lee Kuan judges called out were conceived in a pre-social-media atmosphere: the High Line and Brooklyn Bridge Park. The third example, "re-purposing the right of way" (i.e. bike lanes and pedestrian plazas), evolved under the glare of social media. But as the mayor said in the speech, the High Line was just one court decision from being torn down when his administration took over in 2002. One can't help but wonder how much easier activist mobilization might have been if social media were around. Instead, activists relied on community outreach and coverage in print media to save the endangered rail bed. Though Brooklyn Bridge Park began with traditional community mobilization, by the time park officials got around to proposing a hotel and residential towers within the park's boundaries, opponents had found plenty of friends on Facebook. But among the three initiatives/projects cited in Singapore, none played out in social media more than the bike lanes. Interestingly enough, it's here that the mayor got the most support. If you can find the wordy "No Bike Lane on Prospect Park West Neighbors For Better Bike Lanes" Facebook page, compare its closed group of 288 members to the 3,397 'likes' on Transportation Alternatives public page. Transportation Alternatives has another 4,081 following them on Twitter under the handle @TransAlt. Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes isn't on Twitter. It’s not difficult to understand the mayor’s concern. In the last month alone, social media has had a profound effect at the city’s pubic hearings and meetings. The young bucks from the AIDS Memorial Competition nearly upended the land use process for the Rudin’s plan for St. Vincent’s when they tapped into Architizer’s 450,000 Facebook fans to hold the competition mid-ULURP. Normally quiet sub-committee meetings of Community Board 2 had to scramble to find more room for the NYU 2030 Expansion Plan after Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP) digitally got the word out. And the very staid—and sometimes dull—Design Commission meeting turned into a sideshow when Save Coney Island informed their 5,300 Facebook friends of the time and place of the meeting. Regardless of how the mayor (with his own 240,000 followers on Twitter) feels about social media, it's here to stay. Even though the city closed down Zuccotti Park, Occupy Wall Street continues to make its presence felt online, where they plan flash demonstrations held all over town. The question is: how does the city integrate this vital new participation into the process? There are platforms on NYC.gov that allow citizens to see what's going on, but few to interact. Researchers at NYU's Polytechnic Institute have been developing Betaville, an online, open-source platform where residents can do a 3-D fly-through of proposed projects and make comments. At the GVSHP kickoff meeting to oppose the NYU2030 expansion plan, one gray-haired woman said to another gray-haired woman that there was just too much gray hair in the room. As the various CB2 subcommittee meetings progressed through the month of February, more and more students who opposed the plan began to show up, as did their NYU professors. How did they get the younger turnout? Word of mouth, flyers, and, of course, social media.
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Nature's Benz. LA Autoshow reveals a radically green Mercedes-Benz concept called Biome-- it's made of organic fibers, powered by the sun, and releases pure oxygen into the air! The system behind this model is called "Mercedes-Benz Symbiosis," in which vehicles are seamless part of the ecosystem. Facebook's Exodus. According to the New York Times, Facebook is moving out -- of the office clusters in Palo Alto -- and into an insulated 57-acre corporate campus in Menlo Park, California, which is to be renovated by San Francisco-based Gensler. About 2,000 workers, including Mark Zuckerberg, will be moved in within next 10 months. These young 20-somethings don't want a sleek corporate office, but something idiosyncratic and soulful, which the new campus aims for. Code Green. Crain's reports that the New York City Council continues to green up the city's building codes. A trio of bills looks to "create more energy-efficient roofs." While the first bill requires more reflective and less heat-absorbent roof materials, the second removes building-height limitations from solar thermal equipment and electric collectors and the third bill will add heat and power systems to the list of allowable rooftop structures. Well-spoken Vowell. Chicago magazine talks to Sarah Vowell about Chicago -- and a little New York -- architecture. "It’s what I do for fun: Go see buildings. I like architecture because it’s so nonverbal," she said, and then goes on to discuss her personal relationship with the Carson Pirie-Scott Building. Vowell recently finished her new book on Hawaii called Unfamiliar Fishes.
Last Saturday, architecture took a cue from Project Runway. The assignment: In one fast-paced day, redesign a less-than-inspiring edge of a California town as a glamorous new transit-oriented development—starting with site analysis and ending in a formal presentation of conceptual designs. Among the days visions to sashay onto the stage were mixed-use high-rises, a light-rail station, green roofs and solar collectors, and an alluring gateway arch. The town in question: Menlo Park, a suburban town about halfway between San Francisco and San Jose, and the new home of Facebook. The company recently bought the 57-acre former campus of Sun Microsystems, located all by its lonesome on the edge of the Bay. It is cut off from adjoining industrial areas and residential neighborhoods by the speedy Bayfront Expressway leading to the Dumbarton Bridge. Gensler is busy doing an interior reno of the actual campus, ripping out offices right and left to make the 11 buildings and their 1 million square feet appropriate for the young, hip, social-networking set. But there is nothing in particular to speak of in the area around the campus today and the city of Menlo Park, seeing a ripe opportunity to energize this nondescript corner, invited the San Mateo County chapter of the AIA to run the giant brainstorming session. The AIA SMC has conducted 19 community charrettes over the last 25 years, making it a signature event for the chapter (it got a national AIA grant in 2006 to expand its work in a "Pipeline to Design" initiative.) "Cities get in touch with us when they have a specific area they want to explore ideas for," said Noemi Avram, past president of the chapter. "They can get a broader variety of options before they take the step of hiring a particular firm. We're hoping to whet the appetite of the people that can make decisions." For the Belle Haven & Willow Business Area Design Charrette, the AIA SMC brought in more than 150 architects, design professionals, and students, all working pro bono, to ponder linkages and ways to develop a sense of place. Four teams re-envisioned four areas: the nearby commercial area, including a parcel of land that Facebook has purchased for an expansion; the Belle Haven residential neighborhood; the perimeter of campus and its connection to the wetlands; and the intersection of the crossroads at the corner of the campus. The specific proposals were detailed in the local press (a Menlo Park Almanac story and a San Jose Mercury News story). But the greatest architectural inspiration emerged from the last team, who presented a wide range of eye-catching examples pulled from around the world, including BedZED, a zero-energy housing development in London by Bill Dunster Architects, and the proposed undulating Lent-Tabor pedestrian bridge in Toronto by Ja Studio. The presentation culminated with renderings of a circular pedestrian ramp that would connect the Facebook campus with the rest of town, a visual representation of a "circle of friends," and serve as a gateway to the city. "You can have something like this be the big public event, it doesn't have to be a point tower in the landscape," said architect Paul Jamtgaard of Group 4 Architecture. As envisioned by the architects, the ramp could even have a digital ticker, which would post the Facebook updates of the pedestrians traveling along it—thus adding another wrinkle to a favorite discussion topic among architects: the intersection of public and private space.
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