Frank Gehry redesigns Facebook's west campus

Iconic architect plans building in Menlo Park

Frank Gehry is to architecture as Mark Zuckerberg is to social media: a star. The architect, known for award-winning designs described at times as "a collision of parts," is now gracing Menlo Park with his expertise.

Since his earliest work in the 1960s, Gehry has designed the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in Spain and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. His Santa Monica home, built of corrugated metal and chain link fences blended with a wood frame, has become a tourist attraction.

His partnership with Facebook developed after informal talks gave way to a mutual desire to work together, a Facebook spokesperson said.

Facebook initially planned to put 440,000-square-feet of buildings on its west campus, located on Constitution Drive across the street from the main east campus. But that's now off the drawing board.

Instead, Gehry designed one large "room" perched on top of a parking structure and capped by a rooftop garden. The theme of open-ended interior space echoes that of the main campus, where buildings are broken up by conference rooms and niches for small groups.

Facebook lead designer Everett Katigbak said the new design has much in common with the east campus.

"It's better to think of it as a refinement of our current campus than a separate design altogether," he said. It will replicate the polished concrete and exposed ceiling beams seen at headquarters, "though it will no doubt have certain touches added by the Gehry team. As of now, the design is too early on to confirm what those will be."

The project breaks ground next spring, assuming the city's review of the new design goes smoothly. Covering about 10 acres, the office will house up to 3,400 engineers, according to Facebook. The company declined to disclose the price tag.

"(Gehry) is famous for his ability to execute on the wishes of his client while keeping his projects within their budget. As such, the costs of the campus should be on par with a typical Silicon Valley campus," a spokesperson said.

Asked what drivers passing the campus on Bayfront Expressway might notice, Katigbak said the idea is to avoid a striking design.

"We hope that the building will be reflective of the current architecture in the area. ... Instead, with the trees along the the rooftop and ground level gardens, we hope the building will almost recede into the background of a forest-like landscape. Though still very early in the design process, we plan for the exterior of the building to be clean and simple."

Facebook's director of global real estate, John Tenanes, shared his excitement about the upcoming expansion.

"The new building is reflective of our culture, and we hope it will offer an amazing environment for the engineers who will work there," he said. "We look forward to working with Frank and his team and anticipate a smooth and timely completion of the project."


Like this comment
Posted by Rich Cl
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 24, 2012 at 10:57 pm

Facebook has a "director of global real estate"? How silly is that?

Like this comment
Posted by Lots o' buildings
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 25, 2012 at 8:15 am

"Facebook has a "director of global real estate"? How silly is that?"

Not at all. Most companies have facility managers for a single building. For a company like Facebook with offices around the world, it probably takes a team to manage all of that, hence a director to be in charge.

Like this comment
Posted by Richard_B
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 25, 2012 at 10:59 am

This kind of needless extravagance and unwarranted optimism in the future is really going to boost investor confidence, particularly in light of the IPO debacle and the losses experienced by both investors and employee-shareholders alike. This is now a publicly traded corporation, not a kid's toy. Management needs to realize that, and start thinking and acting accordingly. Are we looking here at the birth of "Enron of the Web"?

At least it's being designed as "one large room" - easily converted into warehouse space or other commercial options if the inevitable downsizing occurs...

Like this comment
Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 25, 2012 at 12:47 pm

> This kind of needless extravagance and unwarranted optimism in the future is really going to boost investor confidence

It is sure not a very business smart move, true, but these days investors seem to be more about superficial image and gambling, so maybe it will. Investors in Facebook have to be pretty stupid anyway to buy a stock that was so quickly revealed to be pumped up at least twice its value ... and probably more drops in the near future if you ask me.

Like this comment
Posted by Richard_B
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 26, 2012 at 8:17 pm

"Anon" - you hit the nail right on the head. If you didn't pick it up from my post, I was being highly sarcastic with my remarks that it would boost investor confidence.

Your comments about the superficial image and, especially, gambling hold true through all of the speculative IPOs I've seen the past few years. It's sad that corporations have to satisfy Wall Street in order to survive. The days of long-term strategy are gone (although some of us keep that as a top priority) - it's what Wall Street wants to see in the morning.

I'm not writing naively. I grew up in Palo Alto and spent a good part of my life there (I still have a house there). I only left because I got the proverbial "Offer I Cant't Refuse").

As CEO of a Fortune 50 company in the midwest, I'm straddled every day with the agony of struggling between Wall Street expectations and the truly right things to do to ensure growth, and to make that growth successful. In Facebook's situation, I wouldn't have even wasted my time listening to a presentation on the new "campus" - not given the stock's performance. I'd have had people doing damage control, not flaunting blind arrogance.

You've correctly guessed the I'm writing under a fake name. But, I grew up in Palo Alto, love the city, and that's why I stay in contact.

But, I'm grown up now. I know the business world. Some things just aren't going to fly.

Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Aug 27, 2012 at 7:16 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Having actually looked at the design I commend Facebook for this choice. It wil be a beautiful structure and probably very energy efficient. It is not clear that the total cost will be very different from something much more ordinary.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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