Facebook is building an extension of its campus in Silicon Valley, and, in a signal that it it is a Company to Be Taken Seriously, it has tapped renowned architect Frank Gehry to design the new building.
The plans were unveiled — where else? — in a Facebook post, written by the company’s environmental design manager, Everett Katigbak. In the post, Katigbak positively gushes over Gehry:
A few months ago, I flew down to Los Angeles to meet for the first time with Frank and his team. His office is a giant warehouse overflowing with handmade, wooden models juxtaposed with state-of-the-art architecture software (some of which is designed by Frank’s in-house team). His teams are filled with people who are unbelievably talented and love what they do. The whole thing reminded me of Facebook, so that when I met Frank, I already knew he was a perfect fit for us.
It’s a match made in heaven!
Interestingly, the building looks pretty modest and is designed to fit in with its surroundings. There will be a rooftop garden and lots of surrounding trees, and it will maintain the “raw, unfinished look” of Facebook’s previous buildings.
Wait, Frank Gehry is building this? He of the Guggenheim Bilbao and the Walt Disney Concert Hall?
This isn’t Gehry’s first adventure in the world of tech, but his previous building, the $300 million MIT Stata Center, turned into something of a disaster: three years after it opened (to mostly positive reviews), the school sued Gehry for negligence, charging that his lack of attention had created a building with leaks, cracks, rapidly growing mold and drainage backup. Another three years later, the suit was settled “amicably” and dismissed by MIT. The Facebook job marks Gehry’s high-profile reentry into the tech world, and the building’s low profile, though it may fit the Facebook aesthetic, also somehow reads as the architect making amends.
There’s a history of tech companies commissioning buildings from high-profile architects, most recently with Apple bringing on Norman Foster to create its new campus, a glowing spaceship ring. The father of this type of project may be Eero Saarinen, who designed IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center back in 1957. I’m not sure if Facebook’s low-key project with Gehry will make into the architectural history books, but it should be interesting to see Gehry step out of the box a little.