(A sign at the entrance to Facebook’s new Menlo Park, Calif. headquarters.)
Walk inside Facebook’s new headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. (AKA “10 Hacker Way”) and find the model for the new American office.
Gone are the low ceilings, interior walls and fluorescent-lit maze of cubicles. Instead, rusted steel beams, plywood hallways and and exposed air ducts serve as symbols of a new, edgier office culture. It’s a culture hoping to attract young, innovative employees who thrive in a place where walls are torn down and ideas are shared freely with anyone, anywhere.
(An overhead view of Facebook’s new headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif.)
The company spent $250 million renovating the 10-structure facility spread across more than 1 million square feet, according to an article on FinancialPost.com. According to BusinessInsider.com, East Campus, former home of Sun Microsystems, totals 1,036,000 square feet on 57 acres. West campus, former home of Tyco Electronics, stretches across 22 acres.
The office buildings are situated around a group of storefronts offering services to employees including food, medical, cleaning and more – all free. Interior atriums add plenty of natural light. Sofas throughout serve as gathering points for impromptu meetings.
The enormous campus was created to house the 9,000 workers Facebook hopes to employ in the next six years.
(This photo shows the exterior of Facebook’s new headquarters in Menlo Park, shot when Sun Microsystems was the tenant.)
Facebook and other tech companies like it are re-imagining the workplace from the top down, according to the Financial Post. Areas once reserved for single functions (stairwells, conference rooms, kitchens) are being opened up and turned into spaces where employees can meet informally at any time.
The proliferation of mobile technology has made the need for traditional workspace obsolete. Now, employees can work wherever they set down their laptop.
“Now that we have mobile devices, we’re freed from the desk, which means we need more formal and informal spaces where we develop relationships and have conversations,” Georgia Collins, North America managing director of DEGW, part of Aecom Technology Corp., told the Financial Post.
Tech companies are less concerned with the exterior appearance of the spaces they lease, John Guinee, an analyst who follows real estate investment trusts for Stifel Nicolaus & Co. in Baltimore, told the Post. It’s what they can do with the inside that matters more.
“Real estate developers think tenants want architecturally significant space on the outside, but they really want cool space on the inside, access to public transportation and open-space planning,” Guinee said.
Google just purchased a block-sized warehouse for its New York headquarters, online gaming company Zynga Inc. is using a former wholesale fashion mart and Twitter will move to a San Francisco furniture mart circa 1930.
This, of course, isn’t the first time corporate office layout has been re-imagined. In an article on Wired.com, writer Cliff Kuang shares how seating arrangements have changed as attitudes about work have changed.
The precursor to the open spaces of the tech era is the “Action Office,” designed by Herman Miller in 1968 (of course, you might know it better as the cubicle) where low dividers and flexible workspaces reined. The rise of middle management in the 1980s resulted in the dreaded cube farms – floors stacked with modular offices to accommodate all those workers who needed more than a mere desk, but weren’t senior enough for a corner office.
Now, companies hoping to encourage sociability and collaboration are tearing down those walls.
Of course, they might not want to go to far. Kuang shares the fateful story of an L.A. ad agency that took the concept of flexible workspace to the extreme – nobody had personal desks, they just walked in each day, grabbed a laptop and scrambled to find a seat. Productivity suffered and the firm became a laughingstock.
For companies like Facebook and Google, time will tell how successful their experiments in office design will be. If they continue to produce some of history’s most innovative products while raking in billions in revenue, we’re guessing hip, new offices won’t be far in our futures.