Facebook, bleeding money and prestige, are forging forward with plans to build a huge, sprawling, Metropolis Campus that looks like a giant warehouse that was built on a Tilt-a-Wheel and then bumped for good measure just to be jazzy. There’s no sense of privacy or sacred space. It’s all one big blob of a structural maze and a spinning internal eyesore.
Here’s the New York Times take on the new Facebook monstrosity:
I read with some amusement the news that Facebook had brought on the architect Frank Gehry to design an expansion to its Menlo Park, Calif., headquarters. Or more specifically, a new warehouse for engineers at its Menlo Park headquarters. Plans for the Silicon Valley site include a 420,000-square-foot, single-story warehouse topped with a garden that will span the entire roof. A tunnel will connect “Facebook East” to the company’s existing headquarters in the former space of Sun Microsystems, whose more hierarchical floor plan has been demolished to make way for Facebook’s open-plan ethos. (As one British blog so delicately put it, “Facebook moves into Sun Microsystems carcass.”)
This Facebook misstep on architectural design made me start thinking about what makes a memorable building and a good urban campus. Buildings should be dramatic and exciting and artful on the outside and they should be intimate and sacred and artful on the inside.
When you’re in the midst of the urban realm, you want to be comforted and cozy and not sensually assualted and overwhelmed — and that can certainly happen in a massive warehouse structure with the right aesthetic of human compassion embedded in the design.
When you can’t just bulldoze an entire area and build something in the empty space, fitting in with your surroundings is important. Columbia University uses bits and shards of the Morningside Heights neighborhood as their de facto campus green and it works well. NYU, in its ever-ongoing expansion swallow all of Greenwich Village whole at least pretends to try to fit in to the existing landscape.
I hope the public ridicule of the new Facebook Borg Death Star will cause architect Frank Gehry to rethink and redesign the space with a more human conflation of a reflexive beating heart that is within us all — but sorely missing in most of modern architectural design.