Sweet Valley heights

by Toby Manhire / 15 December, 2013
Facebook, Apple, Google and Amazon are erecting Silicon Valley monuments to digital domination.
Amazon's envisioned new headquarters.


The giants of the virtual world are doing some extraordinary things with bricks and mortar, plastic and glass.

Apple, Facebook, Google and Amazon are all building “bombastic new headquarters to immortalise their grandiose ambitions”, writes Thomas Schulz from San Francisco for the German weekly Der Spiegel.

The new constructions are in many ways reflecting what’s for some time been going on inside the Silicon Valley doyens’ buildings – “the best places to work in America have become amusement parks”, notes a feature for Italy’s La Stampa (via Worldcrunch) exploring the manifold luxuries on offer to employees.

Apple’s giant new donut-shaped base has been designed by Norman Foster to look “a little like a spaceship”. Others say it is “reminiscent of the Pentagon: an impenetrable, protected world”.

Facebook poker-in-chief Mark Zuckerberg has commissioned Frank Gehry to create the world’s biggest open-plan office, with space for 3,400 Facebook employees on a single floor. The exterior will be less Manhattan, more Hobbiton, “covered with trees and meadows, allowing it to merge with the landscape”.

Amazon is meanwhile building in Seattle “the world's first biosphere headquarters: three domes made of glass and steel, each with an artificial ecosystem, including its own microclimate and corresponding botanical zone”.

And Google is developing its “next-generation ‘Googleplex’ ... nine buildings linked by bridges, a number of the roofs with park landscapes, the entire complex extending over numerous acres of restored wetlands”.

All four evince a dual attention to technology and ecology, and a preference for width over height.

The latter is chiefly about creating the shared work space, in the hope that “people constantly meet and spontaneous conversations occur” – paradoxically, a real-life engagement made rarer by many of these companies technological innovations.

They also mirror that online world, however, by removing walls, and therefore privacy: “anyone who wants to remain unobserved has to make a special effort”.

More than anything, however, these buildings are “monuments”, writes Schultz, “architectural techno-visions that reflect the now inexorable digital domination. They are an expression of the worldwide economic and cultural supremacy that Silicon Valley and its leaders overtly claim for themselves.”

Remarkable edifices, without doubt. And emerging as many, the New York Times included, note that it’s all feeling a bit 1999, a bit, you know, bubbly.

See also: Reasons to hate Silicon Valley

Amazon plans delivery by drone

Follow the Listener on Twitter or Facebook.
MostReadArticlesCollectionWidget - Most Read - Used in articles
AdvertModule - Advert - M-Rec / Halfpage

Latest

Truth and Lye: New perspectives on the brilliance of Len Lye
85816 2018-01-19 00:00:00Z Arts

Truth and Lye: New perspectives on the brilliance …

by Sally Blundell

New essays on New Zealand-born US artist Len Lye elevate him to the status of Australasia’s most notable 20th-century artist.

Read more
Brain activity may hold the secret to helping infertile couples
86046 2018-01-19 00:00:00Z Health

Brain activity may hold the secret to helping infe…

by Nicky Pellegrino

For about a third of infertility cases in New Zealand, there is no obvious reason why seemingly fertile couples struggle to conceive.

Read more
Farewells on the Auckland wharves, captured by photographer John Rykenberg
85964 2018-01-19 00:00:00Z Life in NZ

Farewells on the Auckland wharves, captured by pho…

by Frances Walsh

More than one million images from Rykenberg Photography, taken around Auckland, are now in the Auckland Libraries Collection. But who are the people?

Read more
'Termite hell' for Golden Bay man after he woke covered in insects
86027 2018-01-18 11:59:55Z Environment

'Termite hell' for Golden Bay man after he woke co…

by Hamish Cardwell

A Golden Bay man spending his first night in his new house says he woke to find his bed, walls and floor covered in hundreds of creepy crawlies.

Read more
Ten ‘stealth microplastics’ to avoid if you want to save the oceans
86015 2018-01-18 11:18:49Z Environment

Ten ‘stealth microplastics’ to avoid if you want t…

by Sharon George and Deirdre McKay

There's a growing movement to stop the amount of wasteful plastic that goes into our oceans, but what about the tiny bits we can hardly see?

Read more
It's time to chlorinate New Zealand's drinking water
86001 2018-01-18 09:41:15Z Social issues

It's time to chlorinate New Zealand's drinking wat…

by The Listener

The inconvenience to chlorine refuseniks is tiny compared with the risk of more suffering and tragedy from another Havelock North-style contamination.

Read more
Climate change: New study finds worst case scenario might not be as bad
85994 2018-01-18 08:27:48Z Environment

Climate change: New study finds worst case scenari…

by Charlie Dreaver

Global warming's worst case scenario may not be as bad as previously thought, a new climate change study says.

Read more
The science of sibling rivalries
85949 2018-01-18 00:00:00Z Science

The science of sibling rivalries

by Sally Blundell

Who was the favourite? Who got the most? Sibling relationships set up patterns that last a lifetime.

Read more