June 20, 2016
by juan
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Invisible architecture and the chameleonic aspirations

Invisible architecture and the chameleonic aspirations of the most emblematic technological companies: the case of Google, Facebook and Apple

Invisible architecture as its name suggests, seeks to camouflage, to mask its buildings, which of course, remain present and in some cases are even enormous. But they happen to get veiled, to merge with the landscape in which they are located.   Some authors even understand that this architectural trend rather than aspiring to integrate its buildings into the landscape, seeks to make them go unnoticed, because for their followers, at the end, landscape is what matters. Invisible architecture then resorts to the mimicry and optical illusion and uses different techniques to make “disappear” constructions: displays, mirrors (including water mirrors and reflective surfaces in general), video cameras, etc.

The French architect Dominque Perrault -one of the most representative of this trend- says that architects use “… the disappearance so that a project does not become an obstacle.” “The architecture consisting in building walls implements a necessary act of separation, but my desire is to separate the least possible, responding to the equation of continue development without destroying the specificity of places».

It cannot be casual than the current headquarters of Facebook in San Francisco, and the future headquarters of Apple and Google in California they all use invisible constructions. At the same time it is paradoxical that at the time of requiring discrete, invisible buildings, they all have chosen for their projects, well known architects whose works always arouse public attention from the very beginning: Frank Gehry was the author of the headquarters of Facebook, Norman Foster is responsible for future ring of Apple in Cupertino and Bjarke Ingels and Thomas Hearherwick work in the future headquarters of Google. Google officially recognized this desire for discretion in: the company´s blog that describes its new headquarters as a building that “fades the difference between architecture and nature”.

But the use of invisible architecture is not the only link that all these projects have in common: they all incorporate and fuse elements from other recent architectural trends: high tech, minimalism, sustainable architecture, and even architectural elements that makes us remind the Metabolist trend of the 60’S for its commitment to the futuristic look, that so far the public has not yet seen besides star wars movies.

All these architectural spaces at the time of acting as office buildings constitute a point of visual reference, and a “manifesto” in the sense that they are projecting a corporate image associated with the future, the technology and the sustainability. But it is more than a corporate image in the traditional sense of the word: now the corporate image also goes through an emotional connection that links the company with both employees and customers.

The interesting thing about all of these projects that meld the latest architectural trends, is that they represent a change of paradigm with regard to the working environment: they all show a working atmosphere that happens to be a more horizontal space than the one we have seen before, allowing collaboration, team working and giving space to a more ludic and natural approach to work that boosts creativity and productivity, and that creates a sense of protection thanks to its sustainability.

You can read or listen in around 4:00 minutes …

Frank Gehry and MPK 20 of FACEBOOK in Menlo Park, Silicon Valley

The Canadian architect Frank Gehry, designer of the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, is also the author of the project MPK 20 for the headquarters of Facebook in San Francisco and the world’s largest collective work space. On one floor, and in a single workspace, the MPK20 is capable of accommodating 2,800 employees.   There are lots of small spaces where people can work together, and meet in small groups, which facilitates collaboration among employees. The spirit of the construction, according to Gehry and Zuckerberg, is to materialize the same sense of community and connection that offers Facebook on its on line platform. The building includes amenities that look like taken from the mind of a child as well as a spectacular view of the sea and many allusions to art nouveau.

When Mark Zuckerberg saw the first version of the MPK20, asked Frank Gehry more discretion and less ornamentation: he just wanted a simple building able to facilitate team working and be flexible enough to respond to the ever-changing nature of his business. He also requested Gehry to give the building the feel like a work in progress as a reminder of what does the company still need to achieve to connect the world.

The building was designed and built in just three years. The construction is relatively simple and is made of metal, concrete and glass. The 3.5-hectare park located on the roof includes a running track of half a mile, a café stand and a park containing over 400 trees.

When it comes to the interior decoration, 15 artists created pieces that are committed to explain abstractly what Facebook does.

The total complex has 80 hectares and was designed as if it were a small town, with a total of 21 buildings including hotels and residences for its workers. In what could be considered the central square of this so-called town, where the Town Hall would be located, a giant screen announces events to come. Below, in a sort of aquarium where you can see him at all times, Zuckerberg has his office/meeting room. No one has a private office, so besides Zuckerberg, everyone is on view, accessible.  In the Hacker Way, the street dividing the two rows of buildings, employees can walk into the music room to disconnect from the routine, create posters at the print shop or enjoy an afternoon doing bricolage after completing a safety course. Dining options are varied: from salads made with vegetables grown in the area, to pizza and gourmet hamburgers from a high quality chain that does not exist outside the campus.

NAME OF THE BUILDING: MPK20 (for Menlo Park Campus building 20).

ARCHITECT: Frank Gehry.

CLIENT: Facebook

LOCATION: Menlo Park, Silicon Valley, Palo Alto, San Francisco.

SURFACE: the total surface of this complex including the 21 buildings of the complex has 80 hectares.

YEAR: 2015

ESTIMATED INVESTMENT:17,000 million euros.

Bjarke Ingels and Thomas Hearherwick and a project for Google

The architects Bjarke Ingels of BIG Studio (Danish) and Thomas Heatherwick (British) joined forces to work together for the first time at the request of Google, who sourced around the globe the ideal team to provide an original answer to their building needs for their new headquarters.

For Google this is an exciting project as is the first time that they are going to install their offices in new headquarters. They asked both architects total discretion over the work.

The project unveiled in 2015 and reformulated this year, consists of a multiple dome structure hidden under a s transparent skin that erases the boundaries between the inside and the outside of the building.   . On the inside, modular pavilions are arranged. The translucent covers also extends over open air areas and are used to control the temperature at the time allowing the passage of natural light and ventilation. A twisting footpath surrounds the building, and in turn connects exterior and interior spaces with shops and cafes.


ARCHITECTS: Bjarke Ingels and Thomas Heatherwick


CLIENT: Google

LOCATION: Charleston East, Mountain View, Silicon Valley

SURFACE: surface definition pending

YEAR: the design of this project has begun in 2015

Norman Foster and his “invisible” ring: the new campus for Apple will be surrounded by woods and will have an underground parking, so as to get as unnoticed as possible

Norman Foster belongs to the firm Foster & Partners, based in London, one of the most innovative of the planet with a sustainable approach to architecture design. Foster & Partners has participated in the design of public infrastructure and private buildings all around the world.

Their ring design for Apple is a mega building of 260.000,00 sq. meters called Campus 2 –whose size would easily accommodate the Pentagon itself-. It began to be planned in 2006 and in 2011; details were presented to the Cupertino authorities for approval.

At this time construction is quite advanced and completion is scheduled for the beginning of 2017. It is expected that 13,000 employees move to Campus 2.

Apple authorities, attached to their own traditons as they are, do not want to , unveil many details of this building, however its construction is estimated to have demanded $5,000 million US dollars

Norman Foster has revealed that when designing the “ring” as a campus for Apple, the first reference he took was the campus of Stanford, the place where Steve Jobs gave birth to the idea that originated Apple.   The building, capable of accommodating around 13,000 people, considered the company’s new guidelines: the creative and the engineers who so far worked separately, in the new building will work together.

The “ring” consists of four floors with curved glass facades, around a green courtyard. The whole building is at the same time immersed in a large park. In fact, it is expected that 80% of the site remains as a green space. Lisa Jackson, Vice President of Apple indicates that the company is “maximizing the natural heritage of the area”. “This area has a great climate and 75% of the year, air conditioning is not required, we have natural ventilation”.

The design of the Campus 2 is sustainable: 100% of the energy to be used will come from solar panels. In fact, it is expected that the building contains one of the world’s largest photovoltaic solar panels. It will also include a parking for electric cars with more than 100 charging stations.


ARCHITECT: Norman Foster




LOCATION: Cuppertino.

AREA: 260.000 sq. mt.

YEAR: inauguration is scheduled for the beginning of 2017



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