Today social media giant Facebook announced it had tapped international firm OMA to master plan its Willow Campus, a mixed-use neighborhood that will be located next to the company's headquarters in Menlo Park, California. Shohei Shigematsu, the partner who helms OMA's New York office, will lead the design. “It’s exciting to collaborate with Facebook, whose innovation in networking and social media extends to urban ambitions for connectivity in the Bay Area," said Shigematsu in a release. "The Willow Campus masterplan creates a sense of place with diverse programming that responds to the needs of the Menlo Park community. The site has the potential to impact the future of regional transportation, housing, and environment." Facebook first moved to Menlo Park in 2011, with Frank Gehry designing a major 434,000-square-foot expansion a few years later. In terms of this latest round, said John Tenanes, Facebook's VP of global faculties and real estate, "our goal for the Willow Campus is to create an integrated, mixed-use village that will provide much needed services, housing, and transit solutions as well as office space. Part of our vision is to create a neighborhood center that provides long-needed community services. We plan to build 125,000 square feet of new retail space, including a grocery store, pharmacy, and additional community-facing retail." Housing and regional transportation will both figure prominently into this master plan. Tenanes said that this development will see 1,500 units of housing built, with 15 percent listed at below market rates. Having housing on site will hopefully reduce traffic, he continued, while also adding that "Willow Campus will be an opportunity to catalyze regional transit investment by providing planned density sufficient to support new east-west connections and a future transit center. We’re investing tens of millions of dollars to improve US101." (As Tenanes noted in the press release, this isn't Facebook's first foray into affordable housing.) Tenanes stated that Facebook and OMA will file a plan with the City of Menlo Park this month. From there, they will "begin more formal conversations with local government officials and community organizations over the course of the review process, which we expect to last approximately two years." He estimates construction will occur in several phases, with "the first to include the grocery, retail, housing and office completed in early 2021, and subsequent phases will take two years each to complete."
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After receiving criticism for displacing low-income residents in Silicon Valley, tech giant Facebook will invest $20 million in below-market-rate projects in Menlo Park and East Palo Alto, California. Housing activists have long blamed Facebook for contributing to extreme income inequality in the area. This is not only because the corporation has displaced residents by expanding its headquarters campus, but also because of a seemingly well-meaning policy that offered bonuses to employees who lived near campus in Menlo Park rather than in San Francisco proper. Critics say this policy accelerated gentrification of the area and caused low-income tenants to be evicted in favor of the higher-earning Facebook employees. Of course, Facebook alone cannot be blamed for the Bay Area’s gentrification—Google, Apple, and hundreds of other heavy hitting technology firms and start-ups also call the area home. Plus, according to nonprofit group Public Advocates, the housing shortage in Silicon Valley has reportedly reached crisis levels, with the region building only 26 percent of the housing needed for lower-earning people. With Facebook’s new campus expansion, which entails adding 1.1 million new square feet to its current complex and plans to hire 6,5000 new employees over the next few years, community groups were concerned. In response, Facebook partnered with local activists and community groups, such as Youth United for Community Action, Faith in Action Bay Area, Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto, and Comité de Vecinos del Lado Oeste – East Palo Alto, as well as the local governments of East Palo Alto and Menlo Park to address the impact it will have on the Bay Area. Facebook is legally required to contribute $6.3 million to affordable housing thanks to development laws but does seem to be genuinely invested in the community. In addition to the $6.3 million required, another $12.2 million has been pledged to below-market-rate housing, $500,000 will go toward helping those displaced with legal and rental assistance, and $625,000 will go to job training in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). “Since shortly after Facebook was created, we’ve been part of Silicon Valley and the Bay Area. The region—this community—is our home,” said vice president of public policy and communications Elliot Schrage in a statement. “We want the region to remain strong and vibrant and continue a long tradition of helping to build technologies that transform the future and improve the lives of people around the world, and also in our extended neighborhood. We all need to work together to create new opportunities for housing, transportation and employment across the region. We’re committed to join with the community to help.”
As Facebook taps Gehry for two more buildings, take a peek inside the tech giant's new Menlo Park offices
Facebook has allowed precious few people to see its new Frank Gehry–designed headquarters in Menlo Park, California. One of the lucky scribes was architecture critic James Russell, reporting for the Wall Street Journal. He raved about the hangar-like building's massive ceiling heights, clustered "neighborhoods," lack of hierarchy, and oodles of natural light. Another glimpse of the 434,000, single-floor space, which will eventually hold 2,800 employees, was from The Guardian, which actually posted a picture of the new space by none other than Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg himself. “The building itself is pretty simple and isn’t fancy,” Zuckerberg told the Guardian. “That’s on purpose. We want our space to feel like a work in progress. When you enter our buildings, we want you to feel how much left there is to be done in our mission to connect the world." The Guardian noted that Facebook has just submitted plans for two more buildings next door, also by Gehry, with a floor area of roughly a million square feet. The scheme, also includes a community nicknamed "Zee Town," built for 10,000 employees on 200 acres. According to the Silicon Valley Business Journal, Facebook bought a 56-acre campus once belonging to Prologis south of their current campus in February, so their expansion seems to be just beginning. More pictures of the new offices below.
After weeks of rumors, Time Inc. earlier this week announced that it had sold Sunset's Cliff May–designed, seven-acre campus in Menlo Park, CA to real estate investment firm Embarcadero Capital Partners. Sunset, which has been published in some form or another since 1898, moved into the classic midcentury campus in the 1950s. They will stay through the end of next year. The company has expressed a desire to remain in the Bay Area (in a letter to employees, Time Inc. Executive Vice President Evelyn Webster wrote, "we will be working together with the Sunset team on a thoughtful search for a new home for our operations after the New Year"), but have not clarified where they will go next. Sunset Editor-In-Chief Peggy Northrup stresses that the move is less indicative of the company's financial struggles than of a change in priorities. "You have one of the hottest real estate markets in the world just outside our door. It makes more sense to sell this extremely valuable real estate that’ s not core to our operations and invest that money in our operations," she said. She listed another reason for the change: "Right now the story of The West is that people are moving into cities. It’s really up to us to follow our readers and not just pretend to live the life that we’re living." The campus is an ideal example of 50's California home and garden interaction, with May's modern ranch house vernacular merging seamlessly with an expansive landscape (including a 1.2 acre colonial bent grass lawn) and informal patios by Thomas Church. The facility has its own kitchen for testing recipes, and the ever-blooming gardens exhibit species from varying climate zones—ranging from coastal redwoods to southwest chaparral. The Sunset gardens, by the way, are still open for self-guided tours from 9:00a.m. to 4:00p.m. Mondays through Fridays. Northrup said she didn't know how Embarcadero Capital planned use the campus (they could not be reached for comment), but stressed that, "they have a reputation for doing very very nice renovations and really beautiful office developments." "It’s all about looking forward," concluded Northrup. "It’s a new phase for the magazine and it is a much more outward looking phase."
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.]
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.
Just weeks from completion, a shiny new auditorium by L.A.'s Hodgetts + Fung looks to put the little town of Menlo Park, CA on the architecture map. The $28 million project is at a public institution of learning--Menlo-Atherton High--and the 500-seat venue was designed with top-notch acoustics and a stage that can accommodate a full symphony orchestra, in the hopes of also hosting performances by professional touring groups. Painted in Kynar metallic paint (copper was too expensive), the exterior gleams. But the real treat is inside: the acoustical scrim around the stage is laser-cut with a pattern based on the historic oaks outside. Craig Hodgetts--whose team beat out Antoine Predock and Rob Quigley for the commission--says the high school principal's vision was that "theater should not be an upholstered, bourgeois experience, but something a bit more confrontational." We say: Bring it on! Here's a sneak peek at how things are shaping up before the official opening in October: