Silicon Valley is beginning to turn the tide in architecture. For decades, the land of the technological future was at odds with its expression in the world of architectural forms. Either bland modernism or quaint historicism seemed to be the only available options to design its facilities until just a few years ago. This is starting to change. A new wave of modernist buildings in the region, modeled on a human scale and tailored to people’s needs rather than impersonal users, is under construction. This region has been an urban-suburban contradiction with no credible explanation of its built predicament since the decline of the military-industrial complex in the 1960s. Silicon Valley carries the symbolic capital of an industry grounded in imagining tomorrow, but up until recently, has appeared to be incapable of living this promise in an architectural present worthy of a second look. Company headquarters are now choosing a more consistent message to their overarching philosophy, “attract and retain”. Netflix’s new headquarters is proof of the profound shift in attitudes toward the built environment.
Warm Modernism at a human scale is what drives the design. That approach has delivered an experience that is quasi-domestic in character, a novelty in standard developments in the area. Winchester Road and 85 Highway, two major vehicular thoroughfares, define the straight edges of an otherwise irregular site, where the compound rests. The site plan exhibits four buildings totaling 500,000 square feet laid out loosely following the alignment with the lot boundaries, and gracefully occupying the central spine of the available surface areas. An above grade parking structure and on grade parking occupy a sizeable portion of the open areas, but it is the garden that defines the general experience of this project as a place. Mature redwood trees ranging from 40′ to 100′ in height planted along a linear garden add to the bucolic character of the complex. They confer spatial majesty through their sheer size, with the architecture of the campus being a benevolent complement to its natural message.
Every building has a dedicated entrance from the pedestrian path, typical of an urban vocabulary where the street experience drives urban organization. The four edifices are connected through slender bridges located mid-air, thus preserving their identities as individual structures. It is the enclosure that showcases tastefully what building technology can do to convey beauty in the world of tectonics. Layering, extrusion, and interlocking of volumes are three prime design techniques adopted to let natural light reveal the architecture to its full glow. Broken down in scale, the building is designed to be delicate and genteel. The tripartite identification of the facade through base, middle and open top is here studiously implemented, with the imaginative interplay of aluminum fins, deep overhangs, and silver metal panels. The punched openings carved against the terracotta colored precast panels are learned quotations from a classical syntax, yet ingeniously intertwined with the modern curtain wall system.
The interiors throughout reflect the core design and focus on the movement and connection of collaborative spaces. At the center is the first-floor cafeteria, the main social space, pouring out into a secure courtyard. The exterior landscaping of the courtyard and the walkway bridge above it allows for a free flow from building to building.
Technology is cold if so treated, but it is not a default property of construction. The Netflix Headquarters is our statement of belief that modernism has the latent capacity to convey warmth and to engage the building occupants and daily visitors in an experience pregnant with profound emotional meaning.
Los Gatos, California
2016 Shortlisted, World Architectural Festival | 2016 Honorable Mention - Workplace Interiors, American Architecture Prize
2016 Award of Merit, Commercial Project Over 20,000 sf, PCBC Gold Nugget Awards
2016 Award of Merit, Interior Renovations, PCBC Gold Nugget Awards
2016 Honorable Mention, Interior Office, International Design Awards
2014 Best Creative Deal Winner, Silicon Valley Business Journal