Dr. Claude Dutson was once involved in management consulting during the 1990s. However,
he later shifted his focus to architectural research, developing a deep interest in Silicon Valley,
which he saw as a symbol of creativity, innovation, and power. Consequently, he made the
decision to incorporate Silicon Valley's culture into his doctoral research, with a particular
emphasis on sustainability and architecture within the corporate environment. His study
examined how the workspaces in Silicon Valley organized management culture and explored
how these values were not only expressed through architecture but also constructed by it.
He chose three tech giants in Silicon Valley for his research: Apple, Meta/Facebook, and Alphabet/
Google. However, rather than personally visiting these companies, he gathered information through
online surveys and reconstructed their floor plans by collecting photographs and schematics. Due
to certain corporate policies, the campuses of these tech companies are not open to the public.
If individuals wish to visit as guests, they must sign nondisclosure agreements and undergo tightly
controlled guided tours. Dr. Claude Dutson's research approach provided a completely different
perspective compared to the one-hour guided tours available to the public.
Similarities and Differences in the Campuses of the Big
Three Tech Giants
Each company has unique architectural and cultural characteristics. Interestingly, they have all
chosen not to construct high-rise buildings but instead opt for horizontal development. Each single-
floor space can accommodate roughly 3,000 people, a notably high number. Dr. Claude Dutson
attributes this to MIT's Building 20, known as the "Magical Incubator," mentioned by Stewart
Brand in his book "How Buildings Learn." It was a worn-down low-rise building with long corridors
and a legendary reputation for fostering creativity and productivity. In high-rise buildings,
conversations often come to a halt at the elevator, but in a long, low building, they can continue—a
concept known as "planned serendipity" that drives productive collaboration and creativity.
One notable difference is that Apple has a strong sense of separation, with teams compartmen-
talized from each other. This separation is evident in various buildings, which contain many
partitions. It's like a doughnut shape, so you can't see everything at once. This aligns with Apple's
internal culture of secrecy.
The Foster + Partners-designed Apple Park headquarters office space
At Facebook, they consciously strive to make the place look unfinished. It has a warehouse feel,
where things are constantly being assembled and dismantled. There's a lot of plywood, and you
can even see the framework of the space. Their own software, almost like an in-house version
of Facebook, allows people to connect with each other from anywhere. They have a highly
Facebook's campus in Menlo Park, California, comprises 30 buildings and is expected to accommodate as many as 30,000
employees in the next decade.
Facebook moves swiftly, making iterative changes or issuing apologies if serious issues arise later.
Google, on the other hand, follows a slow engineering culture where each product undergoes
multiple design reviews and iterations. Interestingly, Google had the slowest pace in completing
its campus and made multiple changes to the architectural teams. Consequently, you can see
these cultures reflected in how they approach aesthetics, space, or even procurement processes.
Is Silicon Valley a good model for other companies?
Dr. Claude Dutson believes that the spatial design trends in Silicon Valley have influenced workplace
design worldwide, but not all elements are easy to replicate. It's a complete management culture,
and it's challenging to extract elements and expect them to function in the same way. According to
a human resources manager at Alphabet/Google, it goes beyond just the color of the seats, sleep
pods, and other physical aspects. It involves how Silicon Valley makes work meaningful.
Google Bay View Takes Green Building to a New Level
Silicon Valley ensures its employees are well-compensated. They're taken care of. Benefits are
not little rewards for hard work - those at Google, Facebook, and Apple are workaholics. They
want to work. These "perks" exist to ensure they can do what they want to do.
Success and Challenges Coexist in Silicon Valley
Silicon Valley thrives on its ability to hire and fire employees rapidly. That's how it operates. Some
see it as a good thing, while others don't, and there are glaring issues of gender, race, and class.
Silicon Valley has never truly been able to overcome this. Viewing Silicon Valley as an extraordinary
place, with many practices that shouldn't be emulated, is necessary. It's a significant problem for
those seeking alternative uses for space in Silicon Valley, as almost all spaces have been claimed
by tech companies. It's not a very sustainable ecosystem. Additionally, when tech companies
attempt to solve problems, these issues are often closely tied to their own survival. For example,
self-driving cars emerged from the need to spend two to three hours commuting every day. Silicon
Valley is addressing issues, but these problems may not be global in scope.