The Architecture of Tech Giants
What do the headquarters say about the tech brand?
No matter what your opinion on social media and its pervading influence on society, the power of the companies that operate within the digital sphere can’t be underestimated. Companies like Apple and Google are constantly subject to media scrutiny in every facet of their operations, from the lives of their CEOs to speculation about their next big moves. And that extends to their physical locations.
Recently, a great number of tech giants have been moving their employees from one cleverly designed building to another, to accommodate their rapid growth, and to better emulate their brand philosophies in the spaces in which they work. The spaces have been carefully designed to increase productivity and brand image – let’s find out how:
(Image from Apple)
Apple’s new headquarters opened in Cupertino earlier this year, introducing a venerable monolithic ring of steel and glass to the area. Among its many delights are giant four-storey glass doors, a 755-foot tunnel and a hilltop theatre named after the late Steve Jobs.
The building was the last contribution Jobs made to the brand – thereby giving it the elegant design features that all Apple’s products share. Minimalist and innovative, the building also incorporates natural elements, through the planting of almost 9, 000 trees in the building’s central courtyard and solar panels, a large contributor to the building’s 100% reliance on renewable energy.
The ‘simple, not complex’ nature of Apple that Tim Cook extolls makes itself known in construction, since the unbroken curved glass in the building are among the largest of their kind, whereas the secluded nature of the building elegantly embodies the enigmatic nature of the brand and its products- simplicity on the outside, encasing the intricate enterprise occurring inside.
(Image from Google: Mountain View headquarters)
At the heart of Google’s brand is playfulness, a facet that’s been extolled throughout the internet – almost everyone’s heard of their amazingly bright offices, with everything from mini golf and arcade games to huge slides and a rock climbing wall across their numerous international headquarters.
Google popularised the idea of office-as-playground, and the new Mountain View headquarters are an extension of that, retaining the light-heartedness of the brand. Google may have had to acquiesce LinkedIn’s reclamation of part of the space meant for their new Mountain View headquarters, but the design remains a great demonstration of Google’s philosophy. The enormous canopy forming the roof of the building resembles a tent more than anything else, but it’s only cleverly designed to look that way. It is, in fact, made of curved metal squares, with solar panels and windows to let in natural light.
A similar philosophy applies to Google’s London headquarters. Both architectural plans propose large, monumental buildings with a heavy focus on light and greenery – the London office boasts a stunning 300m long roof terrace adorned with gardens and large, field-like areas. Google places a great deal of importance on their humanitarian and social responsibility work, making their environmentally friendly headquarters yet another tell of their values. The value Google places on fun and play will also prevail in both new establishments, through sports areas, massage rooms, cafes, and other event spaces.
(Image from Vanity Fair)
The token social media platform for young people, Snapchat’s headquarters are in a place renowned for its youthful atmosphere – Venice Beach. The buildings are sprawling, littered around Venice Beach instead of sticking to one particular place. In some ways, it mimics the app’s concentration on travel and mapping geographical location.
Snapchat recently decided to remodel themselves into Snap Inc., turning themselves into something that they say is first and foremost a camera company, and proving it through the introduction of Spectacles – glasses that record short videos in much the same way Snapchat currently does. The company is changing, growing up, and as teenagers often do as a rite of passage at the beginning of college, they’re moving away from home. Instead of incensing the inhabitants of Venice Beach eternally, Snap Inc purchased over 79, 000 acres of land in the Santa Monica Business Park, an area which forms the pivotal breeding ground for tech companies in the area. It’s essentially LA’s version of Silicon Valley, so it makes perfect sense for Snap Inc to move to an area where its digital potential will be better appreciated and welcomed.
(Image from Christophe Wu)
Instagram’s new office opened in October 2016, and as WIRED aptly reported, ‘it looks like Instagram’. It’s aesthetically pleasing, brightly lit (for that perfect Instagrammable light) and mostly minimalist, like the layout of the app itself.
And as expected, the place is full of photos. They line the walls, form a rotating slideshow on screens in the lobby. They provide pops of colour, as does the colourful Instagram room filled with props and backdrops that mimic the colour of the app’s redesigned logo – designed by a Hollywood set designer for maximum effect. The office even has its own café – the Blue Bottle café, with a selfie wall for photos of customers taken with provided Instax cameras.
As Instagram is now part of Facebook, it became important to create spaces that synthesised the two companys’ ideologies – As Facebook and Instagram’s Head of Communications for Australia and New Zealand, Antonia Sanda notes Instagram is focused on creativity and community, while Facebook is determined to foster trust, work fast, and make an impact.
Instagram’s new physical incarnation takes a good shot at doing all of it.
(Image from Facebook)
Facebook moved into a shiny new Frank-Gehry designed building in 2015, encompassing a whooping 40, 000 square metres. It’s also said to have the largest open floor plan in the world, with around 2, 800 employees in one room.
The scale of the building and the reputation of its designer may emulate the brand’s enormous influence, but they certainly aren’t the only connections. Facebook’s insistence on simplicity and connectivity between people comes through, with Gehry describing the place as ‘remarkably human’ without being ‘overly designed’, allowing for people to work collaboratively and transparently. The platform prides itself on its ability to encourage meaningful connections with people – so an open workplace was very important.
However, the building does also pay homage to the platform’s more creative side, and their intent to ‘be bold’, with bright colours and artworks created by 15 local artists.