Saturday, December 14, 2013


Before the tech-bust of 2000, Po Bronson wrote this:
"Silicon Valley Searches for an Image ... Recently a five-person crew from ABC's 'Nightline' planned a trip to Silicon Valley to shoot a minidocumentary.  Their subjects were preinterviewed, schedules were cleared, flights were booked.  There was only one problem: No one of the crew had ever been there before, and they had no idea what scenery to put on tape. Theye were hoping for the equivalent of New York City's skyline or the Hollywood sign. They needed to point the camera at something that captured Silicon Valley's buzz.  Instead, they found an endless suburb ..." (WSJ, Feb 9, 1998).
That was then. Fast forward and here is Paul Goldberger on plans underway for the Valley:
"In a community that you could almost say has prided itself on its indifference to architecture, Apple, which had already changed the nature of consumer products, seemed now to want to try to do nothing less than change Silicon Valley’s view of what buildings should be."
Read the whole thing. Goldberger is disappointed in how two large projects are taking shape, Norman Foster's ideas for Apple and Frank Gehry's plans for Facebook.
"Undoubtedly, both buildings will bring a degree of architectural excitement to Silicon Valley that it has never seen before. But the real question is whether, for all their ambition, they will do much to change the underlying suburban culture. They are both big, private, sealed-off corporate villas that most people will reach by car. At a time when the city, not the suburb, seems to hold the allure for younger workers in the technology industry, how much will Foster’s refined, iPhone-like architecture or Gehry’s lively, garden-topped workspace matter? Twitter’s renovated office space in an old San Francisco neighborhood may, in the end, be the real harbinger of the future."
The new look will make life simpler for future camera crews.  But employees who can afford it will commute from San Francisco -- which no one designed.  Steve Jobs had an amazing knack for finding pleasing designs for small gadgets.  But how scalable is that knack?

Silicon Valley will continue to thrive as long its workers come up with ideas.  They will exploit the great communications gadgets available to them to do that -- to find ways to interact no matter the design of their work setting.