Claudia Dutson, PhD (RCA)


The Architecture of Silicon Valley

If you haven’t been to Silicon Valley, I’m sure you can easily picture the repurposed industrial lots, the interiors now furnished with ping-pong or ‘foosball’ tables, healthy cafes, breakout spaces and metres of writable whiteboard walls. You can perhaps imagine what it’s like to ride the primary-coloured bicycles across the extra-urban landscapes of Mountain View, or to hail an Uber between the Googleplex and Apple Park, Cupertino, or drive out to the new 37-acre Menlo Park campus of Facebook – the largest burölandschaft in the world.

But is the concept of Campus reducible to bright colours and exposed services, the deployment of ‘third place’ amenities and the insertion of ‘casual’ interludes within the workplace? In developing methods to analyse architecture with the culture of organisational management, along with a history of the development of the typology of Campus and its precedents, I propose that Campus cannot be understood solely through its form, appearance, nor can it be reduced to its outward functionality as a workplace. Campus is instead a typology in its own right, with a history and a number of key features that are not aesthetic or semiotic, so much as strategic and relational.

Campus is an extra-urban workplace typology exemplified by tech-companies Google, Apple and Facebook in the United States. Recognising that work is now one of the most central components of a person’s life – it is meant to be fulfilling and to enable the realisation of our full potential – these companies provide total environments which include the provision of wellbeing, the manufacture of shared objectives, and the quest for self-actualisation. I have investigated the Campus typology through key case studies to trace the pre-histories and key influences, explore the extents of control, interrogate the role of management culture in the development of spatial strategies and the production of worker subjectivities, and critically assess the relationship between the client and the architect to understand what impact this typology will have within the discipline of architecture.

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