Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Gehry, Zuckerberg, and Menlo Park Agree on Building Facebook West Offices

"Toned-down" Facebook West design by Frank Gehry
Hunter Communications recommended reading from:
Fast Co.Design

Link to article:
Why Frank Gehry is the Perfect Architect for Facebook

When Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg asked architect-superstar Frank Gehry to "tone it down" when designing the new Facebook HQ in Menlo Park, the world was ready for a royal rumble between the two headstrong figures. But now a new design that is less about Gehry's famous flourishes and more about the building inside seems to have pleased both of them and won over the Menlo Park authorities as well. If you look behind the outward elements, maybe Zuckerberg and Gehry were never so far apart.

Excerpt: "Facebook’s future Menlo Park outpost is one step closer to reality this week, after Frank Gehry’s 'toned down' design was unanimously approved by the city council. What exactly does toned down mean, you ask? According to Gehry partner Craig Webb, Mark Zuckerberg was a little put off by Gehry’s original design. 'Facebook told us they wanted a building that’s very anonymous, a building that blends into the neighborhood, that doesn’t call a lot of attention to themselves,' Webb reported. The revised plan is a series of white boxes that house one of the largest open-plan offices ever created--all topped by a flowing roof garden.

So why hire a champion of expressivity and iconic design, if you want something generic? The answer lies both in the general misperception of Gehry and Facebook’s hacker culture. Frank Gehry is America’s best-known architect at the moment, largely thanks to photographs of his gleaming, frenetic facades. The majority of us, though, haven’t even stepped foot inside one of his buildings, which are almost entirely nondescript, boxy, and white inside. Gehry has a reputation as a wild man--but once you get past the bombastic facade, it’s pretty vanilla stuff.

Which is exactly what Facebook needs. Zuckerberg is known for his 'hacker ethic,' which he’s described as 'extremely open and meritocratic.' Hackers, goes the Facebook mantra, 'believe that the best idea and implementation should always win.' Those ideas extend to Facebook’s offices, where employees are free to hack their spaces as they see fit. In a way, Gehry’s white boxes are the perfect framework to house 3,400 employees who are encouraged to hack the spaces around them. As Ryan Tate intelligently noted in Wired, the design is a bit like Zuck’s shower sandals-and-hoodie combo, 'an unassuming wrapper around a remarkably capable entity.' "

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