Frank Gehry?s buildings tend to become tourist attractions and landmarks the instant they open. But the renowned architect?s client Facebook decided it didn?t want a landmark after hiring Gehry to expand the company?s headquarters. Facebook wanted something much blander.
The social network this week won approval from the city council of the architectural black hole of Menlo Park, California, to proceed with building ?Facebook West,? a 433,555-square-foot building across the road from its existing headquarters inside an old Sun Microsystems office complex. The vote was 4-0, which shouldn?t be surprising given that Gehry was asked for an anonymous design that blends in very well ? the opposite of his usual eye-catching distinctiveness.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg rejected aggressive flourishes, like building ends that flared like butterfly wings, Gehry?s partner Craig Webb said.
?They felt some of those things were too flashy and not in keeping with the kind of the culture of Facebook, so they asked us to make it more anonymous,? the Palo Alto Daily News quotedWebb as telling the council. ?Frank (Gehry) was quite willing to tone down some of the expression of architecture in the building.? Earlier this year, Webb told Menlo Park planning commissioners that ?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,? according to the Silicon Valley Business Journal.
Facebook?s aversion to panache speaks to the company?s hacker ethos, which emphasizes functionality over form and, at its most insular, heads-down work over outside engagement and communication. In a way, Facebook?s ?very anonymous? new building design is like Zuckerberg?s trademark outfit of gray hoodie, jeans and sneakers: an unassuming wrapper around a remarkably capable entity.
Compare and contrast the Facebook HQ design ? as of September, it?s been tweaked a bit since ? with some of Gehry?s other work below. With a surface-level parking lot underneath the new offices and a rooftop park above, there?s no question the building will blend in well with its surroundings, which include a wide, loud, high-speed road carrying cars to and from the Dumbarton Bridge. Nor is there any question it will stand out from all the low-slung office parks in the area. But it will leave a very different sort of mark than its high-profile predecessors.
There are more documents related to the new building, including architectural plans, here.