Starchitecture emerges in the high-tech industry

The trend of companies and institutions making bold architectural statements with their buildings withered with the recession. Now, starchitecture has re-emerged in the tech industry.

The trend of public institutions and companies making bold, iconic architectural statements with their buildings withered as the recession took hold of the economy. Now, it appears starchitecture has returned--at least, that is, within the technology industry.

Apple, Google, Facebook and Samsung all have plans for new, striking and audacious, headquarters or additions. The buildings are all vastly different from each other. Although there are some underlying themes--work-life balance--and similar features--rooftop gardens, trees and greenery--planned for these projects.

Amazon is the latest tech company to join the architectural fray.

Amazon initially planned to build a low-rise rectangular office building. It's since revised the plans, which it submitted to the city of Seattle this month, to build three glass-and-steel spheres at the base of its rise-complex in Seattle's Denny Triangle (pictured above).

The series of intersecting spheres, which aim to establish a new visual focus and "heart" for the three-block project, will feature five floors of work space. The public green space will include a playfield, off-leash dog park, two-way cycle track on 7th avenue and a weather-protected walkway between the buildings.

The intent of the structure, which is designed by NBBJ, the same firm behind Google and Samsung's projects, is to create an alternative environment where employees can work and socialize in a more natural, park-like setting, says Amazon in its plans. The spheres look like a greenhouse or conservatory (the Mitchell Park Horticulture Conservatory known as the Domes in Milwaukee come to mind). Amazon says the plant material will be selected for its ability to co-exist in a microclimate that also suits people.

Meanwhile, Google is building a 1.1-million-square-foot headquarters called Bay View near its current complex in Mountain View, Calif (pictured below). Google is pulling out all the stops in this new facility and promises to break new ground in environmental sustainability, reported Bloomberg.

While the complex's architecture--nine glass-clad buildings each three-to-five stories high--might not be as visually notable as Amazon's spheres, the project is ambitious for its attempt as sustainability and its efforts to incorporate natural habitat into the plan.

The complex, also designed by NBBJ, will occupy a 42-acre site, including eight acres of bayside salt marshes the company plans to restore and open to the public.

The complex's buildings are long and only 78 feet wide, a purposeful design that aims to harness as much natural lighting as possible. The complex also is designed to promote collaboration with almost everyone on the massive campus with no more than one floor and a 2.5 minutes' walk from anyone else, reported Vanity Fair.

Samsung plans to build a new American headquarters in Silicon Valley, yet another NBBJ project, featuring a 10-story tower, designed to reduce solar heat gain, and courtyards that include fitness facilities, artwork and cafes, some of which will be open to the public. NBBJ has designed the high-rise workplace in such a way that each employee will be no further than one floor away from green space.

Photos: NBBJ

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