Nvidia to Build Silicon Valley’s Latest Architectural Wonder

The initial rendering of the campus was doubly ambitious

By Sharon Simonson

The 250,000-square-foot floor plans envisioned for Nvidia’s new Santa Clara campus take to another new degree the rising corporate emphasis in the Bay Area on creating idiosyncratic workspace to fit specific business needs.

“Nothing like this in the world exists to my knowledge,” said Jeff Birdwell, president of commercial development at Sares Regis Group of Northern California. “It will be spectacularly iconic and iconic through smart innovation.”

Electronic circuit-maker Nvidia Corp. said Feb. 20 that it intended to build a one million square-foot corporate headquarters expansion in two triangular buildings on a 24-acre site across from its existing campus at 2701 San Tomas Expressway. Each new building is to have 500,000 square feet under roof—on only two floors. A division of Sares Regis is development manager.

From their first meetings to discuss the campus, Nvidia co-founder, President and Chief Executive Jen-Hsun Huang “was thinking about connecting people,” Birdwell said.

“We are starting with the most efficient geometry for the most people to connect in a day, and a triangle is creating the shortest travel distance,” he said. “Jen-Hsun is all about engineering efficiency and innovation.”

Each building has a “central core or heart,” Birdwell said, where visitors arrive after parking below the building. The central core includes other common areas such as the dining room and social space. Workspace generally surrounds the core. “[Architect] Gensler is right now programming the details,” he said. The campus is to be built in two phases.

Huang also is leading the drive for construction innovation through the project, Birdwell said. The development team has engaged with the Center for Integrated Facility Engineering at Stanford University. Birdwell has taught in Stanford’s graduate engineering program for 16 years. Huang has sent Nvidia hardware and software to Gensler’s offices “as an early Christmas present to [architect] Hao [Ko]” to help design the buildings, Birdwell said.

Nvidia is perhaps most famous for its computer graphics used for special effects in movies and in electronic gaming. But other applications include product design for manufacturing. “One aspect of innovation in real estate is visualization,” Birdwell said.

Writing in a blog post on his company’s Web site announcing the new campus, Huang said, [The campus] will be the symbol, the physical manifestation, of our vision for the company. … “[The buildings’] vast open floors will facilitate our cross-functional work.”

Nvidia reported record company revenue in its just-completed 2013 fiscal year. In a Feb. 13 news release, the company said it had sales of $4.28 billion, up more than 7 percent over fiscal 2012. During the fourth quarter, the company repurchased $100 million of its stock and distributed not quite $47 million to shareholders as dividends. Net income fell by 3.2 percent to $562.5 million.

Nvidia intends to start construction in June on the first, 500,000-square-foot equilateral triangle with the hope of occupying in May 2015. It expects to have up to 2,500 workers in the building. The company’s timing for phase two depends on its growth.

Nvidia plans to keep its existing 12-building Santa Clara campus, where it has 3,300 employees including contractors and vendors. It has room for about 700 people more. Four thousand of Nvidia’s 7,500 employees worldwide are in Santa Clara.

The chipmaker is the latest Silicon Valley technology company to announce a grand plan for a new, elaborate corporate campus. Apple Inc. plans a three million square-foot ring in Cupertino. Facebook Inc. hired architect Frank Gehry to conceive the second phase of its new Menlo Park headquarters. The world-renowned designer created a three-story building—the ground-floor being a parking lot defined by podiums to support the structure—with a single floor of approximately 430,000 square feet dedicated to open workspace.

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