Nvidia to Build Silicon Valley’s Latest Architectural Wonder

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Google Inc. is pursuing two Peninsula workplace developments, one in Mountain View with approximately 900,000 square feet not yet under construction and a second with more than a million square feet already being built in neighboring NASA Ames Research Center. The company hopes to connect them by road, bike and pedestrian pathways and is pursuing exceptional standards of environmental sensitivity and concern for employee health.

Sares Regis and Birdwell are acting in a like capacity for Google as Nvidia. The search-engine and advertising company has not released details about the NASA campus, and Birdwell said he is not at liberty to disclose specifics.

Other companies, including Synopsys Inc. in Mountain View and LinkedIn Corp. in Sunnyvale, have signed leases to occupy new corporate campuses being built for them by a third party, in both cases Kilroy Realty Trust Inc.

The flush of new construction amidst nearly 31 million square feet of remaining vacant office and research and development space in Silicon Valley testifies to the increasingly poor fit between the building inventory and modern demands, said Antonio Caliz, a senior associate and design director for Valerio Dewalt Train Associates Inc. in Palo Alto. Caliz is unaffiliated with the Nvidia project and has extensive experience in workspace design including engagements with San Jose’s eBay Inc. and Adobe Inc.

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.

The massive building floor-plates being proposed by Facebook and now Nvidia are also new—and not without their design challenges. Through his own work for Adobe, he is designing a San Francisco space involving a 70,000-square-foot open floor plan, he said. 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,” he said.

While he does not doubt that companies are building space that accurately reflects their workers’ needs and whatever unique design qualities each company’s workforce commands, he wonders about these one-of-a-kind buildings a decade from now. There is a reason that multi-tenant landlords and speculative office developers own and create real estate that is versatile and somewhat uncommitted so as to be suitable for multiple tenants. Their floor plates commonly measure 30,000 square feet to 35,000 square feet.

A decade from now when one of these highly specialized campuses comes to market after its owner is confronted with another evolution in its building needs, he said, “We will have to see what happens.”

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