To start with a blank slate in a typical Silicon Valley suburban context, where all public and pedestrian life has historically been banished, is a daunting challenge. Campus X aspires to create an architecture that straddles the iconic and the humane in one design. Creating an architecture worthy of the scale and intensity of the innovation that occurs here, and at the same time challenging Silicon Valley norms, with a design that is permeable to the street, and invites public participation in a vibrantly place-centric way.
Porous public space that invites occupation is a humane approach to design. It prompts gathering, encountering, and mutual viewing. It breathes life into mute materials assembled with tectonic savviness, yet yearning, in the activities of individual destinies, co-mingling in the same area, to aspire to architecture. In incubation, it is the beginning of the city.
Against prevailing practices in Silicon Valley, where campuses are designed to be fortresses of exclusion, Campus X is unusually permeable to a public unconnected to the workforce. Two enormous pedestrian ramps rise on the east side of the site to converge toward its center. They funnel the outside flow of visitors in a setting designed to instill awe while retaining friendliness. This equilibrium is intentional because architecture is present at the service of communal life. At the ground level, all spaces are activated through an impressive 25′ height retail zone filled with showrooms for products, retail and amenity space capped by the glassed forms enclosing a glittering multilevel edifice of offices.
From an iconic standpoint, fluidity is a grand trait of the Internet. An architecture of fluidity makes a continuous space a virtue. Dynamic curvilinear surfaces travel space uninterrupted to stake out a three-dimensional environment with neither beginning nor end. It is an infinite loop without recursive stalling.
Form-making at this scale conjures awe in this startling setting. The massing eludes a closed reading of its volumes against the sky. And what transpires is a choreography of circulation. A web of pedestrian trajectories stake out an intelligent system of paths where function and leisure are equally attended to. To the clarity of its vertical and horizontal organization, the bold architectural presence captivates the collective attention of the visitors.
This complex rises from the ashes of an abandoned Yahoo old campus plan. To the suburban surroundings of a Silicon Valley Office park, Campus X delineates a new place, whose commanding presence draws in users from all site boundaries. The lightness of the overall compound as the buildings touch the ground is the unexpected counterpoint to an outsized architecture whose dimensions are utterly out of the ordinary. The three million square-foot mixed-use campus is made up of four V-shaped buildings.
The edges of these buildings are sculpted to evoke the California cantilevers, so distinctive of its Mid-Century heritage. Both endpoints of these linear buildings turned upon themselves are canted vertically and slanted horizontally, thus accentuating the structural audacity of these sharp edges. Pedestrians perceive these as “futuristic space ships” of mythical proportions, being wrapped into a world of convex surfaces catching all the vanishing points with its site limits. It is a spectacle of technology and engineering cleverness at the services of the memorable.
Each building is unique in its size and function: ranging from 400,000 to 800,000 square feet. Three of the buildings offer 2,000,000 square feet of commercial office space, 150,000 square feet of retail space, and 200,000 square feet of amenities and product showrooms. The fourth building provides 650,000 square feet of housing. Three levels of parking – one underground and two above ground- are inlaid in a podium from where the architecture springs.
Here the humane and the iconic blend seamlessly. Sandwiched between the articulated topography of the ground plane and a futuristic skyline lays a pedestal starkly defined through a continuous disk serving both as canopy and visual marker. The spark of city life occurs. The social energy of past market life is revisited here through a string of architectural events- purposefully elegant to be magnetic destinations for visitors and workforce alike in a crescendo without apex. Each V-shaped building evocative of a boomerang in plan holds an open courtyard filled with amenities and outdoor opportunities, whereas, on the more public side, their convex nature generates a space of perpetual movement in its occupants.
The functional theme of the Campus X project is precisely the negotiation between the public and private realm. Managing that negotiation is left to company culture of its tenants, who are given a flexible architectural device to modulate that condition. In one of these corporate courtyards, an amphitheatre with a 2,500 capacity sits as an object within an object. This space has restricted access to, still amenable to be open to the public if so desired. Similarly, another courtyard holds a Fitness Center with its own unique form. While this amenity is initially geared to serve the needs of the staff, it has encoded in its design the possibility of opening it to the public. Similarly, all the courtyards can be made public. Another crescent is designed to hold housing to also create typological variety within this mostly office complex, which creates a 24 hour vibrancy of Live, Work and Play. What is open to public from the start is the central pavilion building, a stylish tectonic marvel that makes a spectacle of the technology it evokes. To crown the upper floors of all four buildings in an even way, solar panels are placed on all roofs, a metaphorical field of energy generative of its own life.
The forms of Campus X stem from these qualitative considerations. Order, repetition, and pattern do inform the design bestowing identity. The outcome is an up-to-date version of the organic, crafting a unique skyline in the flat vastness of Silicon Valley. It is an architectural orchestration of the public and the private, constantly negotiating between the two, yet all conjuring to generate a pedestrian neighborhood scale.
Santa Clara, CA
Trammell Crow Company, San Francisco, CA
F4 Team: John Marx, Paul Ferro
Form4 Architecture / Downtown