Reshaping the Silicon Valley Workplace

As major Silicon Valley companies, from Apple to Facebook to Salesforce, unveil their new campuses, regional policy and design leaders are examining how the innovation economy makes decisions around form and location for their workplaces.

SPUR, the Bay Area planning and urban research think tank, recently released its groundbreaking report “Rethinking the Corporate Campus.” The project looks at the evolution of the geography of work and asks, “How does the Silicon Valley economy and culture impact our infrastructure?”

With the premise that the Bay Area’s immense growth and success is also straining the region, SPUR has three goals with its inquiry:

  1. To understand how employers in the innovation economy make decisions about workplace location and form;
  2. To recommend useful, achievable best practices for both employers and policymakers;
  3. To improve the performance of a range of workplaces with respect to SPUR’s policy agenda.

The corporate campus as envisioned by Silicon Valley companies has seen numerous iterations.

As Silicon Valley first began to emerge, companies developed a series of disconnected low-rise buildings that were modular, efficient for car-commuting with ample surface parking, and were built quickly. An expression of the “fast and loose” economic and innovation culture, these offices also were problematic from a planning and spatial perspective, according to SPUR. With their locations far from a downtown or central business district, these campuses “never emerge into a coherent urban form.”

Enter the Silicon Valley workplace 2.0 in the 80s and 90s, dubbed the “hermit crab” model. Immense, branded complexes starting with the SGI campus, which Google took over to form the company’s iconic “Googleplex.” These workplaces remained isolated from mixed-use centers, transit and urban amenities.

With talent acquisition now a key goal for companies, is the 21st century iteration of Silicon Valley corporate offices addressing the needs and desires of the Bay Area in this new era? Today, not only are housing and transportation in the region under great pressure, but there are also new cultural preferences from today’s workers. Think: desire for walkability, access to dining, entertainment, exercise and open space plus a change in commute modes.

SPUR explored a number of current campuses in the Valley, analyzing a variety of elements including form, location, sustainability and interaction with the public realm.

SPUR highlighted Bay Meadows as one of a handful of large-scale developments that has successfully addressed companies’ design needs and, also, created an authentic and sustainable place.

Download the full report here > and follow SPUR:

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