Google NY by ToastyKen
High tech in the city: Google's New York campus dwarfs its neighbors. Photo by ToastyKen

The new corporate? It’s about the mix.

A standing-room-only crowd turned out for SPUR’s January 11 program on “The Not So Corporate Campus.” The program promised to reveal the “future of work,” with a panel including Alexa Arena, Forest City’s vice president in charge of the groundbreaking 5M Project, John Igoe of Google, Everett Katibak of Facebook, and moderator Laura Crescimano of Gensler. While the discussion highlighted three campus projects that are trying to go beyond the typical speculative development of office parks, it posed unanswered questions about the importance of diversity and flexibility in sparking innovation. What is the relative value of a traditional corporate campus with limited access to non-employees? Can an organization get more benefit from a more permeable or urban model?

 

Forest City’s 5M Project will redevelop the Chronicle Building’s four-acre site at the corner of Fifth and Mission Streets in San Francisco. Eminently urban, the developers are trying to predict the future of work and are looking at current trends in co-working, crowd sourcing, pop ups and rapid prototyping (making) for insight into what will be. Their plan calls for very diverse, pedestrian-friendly development integrated into the city fabric with a porous ground floor. Here businesses and residents will mingle with artists, educators and entrepreneurs, squeezing out innovation from chance encounters or curated events before taking it upstairs to develop the next uber-idea.

 

Google and Facebook are developing campuses in the suburban office park tradition with new attributes that engage the city, or create a facsimile of it. In Google’s case, its sheer size and its commitment to Mountain View means they are heavily involved in that city’s master plan, determining zoning, open space development and even school districts. The new campuses (and there are two of them) will integrate public space and invite Mountain Viewers to live, recreate and entertain among the Googlers. Facebook, smaller and still private, has inherited the former Sun Microsystems campus in Menlo Park. They are turning an existing central court into a thoroughfare, connecting buildings and inhabitants to encourage a porosity similar to the 5M project, but only for Facebookers.

 

Are the populations present in a corporate campus diverse enough to spark the creativity and innovation desired? While technology organizations constantly bemoan the inability for sales/marketing staff, project and brand managers and engineers of all sorts to collaborate, is the mash up of ideas as rich when everyone is hired or vetted by the same folks? Is the need for adjacencies and security within the workplace compromised in an urban setting where the desire to see what’s happening downstairs may take you away from your colleagues for an hour or two? Start ups and expansions that rely on alternative environments or “serviced offices” would argue no. Regardless of the answer, it is reassuring that we are asking the questions while we continue to look for an alternative to the parking-lot-moated, low-density office park.

Comments

  1. […] with TechShop, The Hub, Off the Grid, SFMADE and Intersection for the arts. Read the review here http://tracesf.com/2012/01/the-new-corporate-its-about-the-mix/ Be Sociable, Share! […]

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  2. How unfortunate that a rep from Salesforce wasn’t a participant. Add to that someone from Apple. I imagine that would have provoked a much more lively discussion and added exponentially to the seeming urban/suburban tech campus dichotomy.

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