“Architecture can’t force people to connect, it can only plan the crossing points, remove barriers, and make the meeting places useful and attractive.” – DENISE SCOTT BROWN (1931 – ), architect.
Interestingly enough, technology companies not only have disrupted life and the stock markets, but also the way the work place is being designed and conceived. Technology companies, rebels determined to challenge the impossible, have also designed their places of work to mirror their own thinking processes and creation protocols. Architecture firms are now being mandated to design the work places of the future and to take cue from what the tech leaders are themselves designing for their own employees. So Scott-Brown assumption that architecture has no power to conjure how people connect is now being smashed by what a Mr. Z and a Mr. G have cooked up in valley, far, far away from here.
“Welcome to the single room building: a 1 mile-long open plan for the mother of all hacks”
– Architecture as an ignition for innovation
The office of the future is one where everyone mingles and collides in spaces of transient movement. And this is precisely the concept design of Facebook’s new offices. Mark Zuckerberg had very precise requirements. He just didn’t want Gehry to do him a building with no interiors. He wanted to have a Hadron Collider of People to continue taking FB to higher degrees of innovation.
Unexpectedly, Gehry was confronted by a new requirement, one that he had not encountered before: to design as space where innovative products would be created within an unstructured, hard to predict environment.
Look at this floor plan: It is designed to incite ‘serendipity’ Why? Because innovation does not happen at one’s desk: it happens when there is human contact and interaction. Innovation cannot have a rational approach to how it is conjured because it emerges from chaos theory, for randomness.
The offices of the digital society are not comfortable places. They are not build to host ‘content’ employees. They are built to make you work with higher intensity. They are designed to ignite passion, commitment, team spirit, creativity. Facebook new offices and surrounding areas are bursting with convenience and services (the “Hamburger Shack”) as well as amplified chances for greater number of random collisions.
Just like in the 1940s Bell Labs offices in Silicon Valley or MIT temporary barracks “Building 20” were the centres of excellence that created some of the most crucial technologies of the twentieth century, their buildings, which hosted multi-disciplinary R&D attempting to harbour organised work, ended up offering collision scenarios.
Mark Zuckerberg knows perfectly well what he is doing: he wants to take Facebook to the next level of innovation, he wants to go beyond the social network and make Facebook enter a new dimension of innovative disruption, and he knows quite well that the human capital of Facebook needs to be catalysed in just the right way. Time to buy Facebook stock if you ask me. What will be coming out of those offices is bound to be truly spectacular. Well done Mark.