NVIDIA joins the crazy Silicon Valley headquarters wars, now with triangles

© Gensler press release

Apple has its circular spaceships, Google its squiggles, Facebook its Gehry boxes on stilts and now NVIDIA gets triangles in the race to design the most bizarre suburban office palace yet. Sitting on a block surrounded by superhighways, Nvidia's new headquarters is a giant two storey triangle with a floor plate of a quarter of a million square feet. (It's phased and will eventually be two triangles as shown).

Founder and CEO Jen-Hsun Huang describes it in a company blog:

The design harmonizes smart functionality and a shape that connects with and inspires our 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. Its vast open floors will facilitate our cross-functional work. The nature of building our products requires experts from multiple disciplines to come together, and this building is designed above all for collaboration.

Architect Hao Ko of Gensler says "There’s something nice about the triangle. It can create a lot of connections among people." He lists other features designed to increase collaboration in Silicon Valley Business Journal:

One way is stairs. Jen-Hsun loves stairs. He sees them as a point of connection for people. You run into someone and have a spontaneous conversation about something. But we don’t want to design traditional stairs. So they’ll be oversized stairs — perhaps 20, 30 feet wide — and the landings are oversized as well. So it feels more like a continuous flow between levels. And it also makes it fun for people to walk up and down the stairs, to stop midway and have a conversation with someone.

nvidia© Gensler press release

It's all about the show. Ko continues:

Their CEO, Jen-Hsun Huang, wanted employees, visitors and the general public to drive by and instantly recognize it as Nvidia, without a big logo plastered across it. We spent a lot of time exploring different building forms to try to highlight that.

That's what architecture is all about. Oh, and its all about "connecting with the outdoors"; According to the Architect's Newsletter,

The roof is made up of interlocking triangular steel panels that surround a large central skylight. The triangular sections break down the building’s overall mass when viewed from above and accommodate smaller skylights in their interstices. Parking is underground, leaving ample site space available for landscaped areas onto which meeting rooms and dining functions open, encouraging employees to move outside when the mood strikes.

Right. Imagine having your desk in the middle of a space larger than most convention centers, and just having the mood strike you to go outdoors, which is like a block away. Conventional building design is turned on its head in this auto-centric world; It doesn't have a front door because everyone arrives by car anyways.

Each building has a “central core or heart,” where visitors arrive after parking below the building. The central core includes other common areas such as the dining room and social space. Workspace generally surrounds the core.

Interestingly, there are 31 million square feet of vacant space in Silicon Valley, that evidently no longer meets the needs of modern companies. Designer Antonio Caliz explains in the Registry:

Many existing Silicon Valley buildings “are simple suburban office campuses with limited amenities,” he said. The modern corporate campus of even a decade ago consisted of 85 percent offices and cubicles. New campuses have no more than 60 percent of their space dedicated to work. “The rest is the different amenities—lounges, fitness center, libraries, shops, sophisticated food and all-hands meeting space,” he said.

Caliz also notes the problems of designing such giant floor spaces.

Getting natural light to the center of a large space can be tricky, a problem in today’s natural-light-obsessed workplace. In addition, these large open expanses can melt into amorphous blobs with one section indistinguishable from the next if not enough is done to create “articulated … neighborhoods.”

What do you do with a 250,000 square foot floor plate if you are wrong about this? How do you subdivide it, adapt it if this whole theory of creative collisions doesn't pan out? What if it turns out that people actually work better when they are not in the middle of a shopping mall?

In much of the world, young people are giving up on cars, and companies are moving back downtown. Amazon, Zappos and Salesforce are investing in their communities, building close to where their employees want to live.

These giant, single occupancy, inflexible suburban auto-dependent monster complexes are dinosaurs before they even open their doors.

NVIDIA joins the crazy Silicon Valley headquarters wars, now with triangles
Circles, squiggles, stilts and now triangles. When will this end?

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