Facebook reveals Gehry design for ambitious new campus

Frank Gehry, designer of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilboa, will design Facebook Campus West

Facebook has commissioned world-renowned architect Frank Gehry to design its first custom-built campus. Gehry is perhaps best known as the architect behind the Guggenheim Museum in Bilboa, Spain, and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, and the new campus will allow both him and Facebook to make a distinctive mark on Silicon Valley.

The project represents Facebook's first customized campus -- its current home was previously occupied by Sun Microsystems. It will house 3,400 engineers in a single building with reconfigurable work and meeting space and a garden that extends from around the building to cover the entire roof of the structure, according to Facebook.

It will be situated on ground already owned by the social networking site operator that sits across the street from its current campus in Menlo Park. A tunnel already connects the two pieces of ground and that will be used by staff moving between the two.

Dubbed Facebook Campus West, initial plans called for four separate buildings but Gehry consolidated these into a single structure that manages to avoid the look of a warehouse or hangar by having angled walls that zig-zag along the length of the building.

Photographs of models of the new building released by Facebook on Friday show hundreds of desks occupying the interior broken up by meeting rooms and offices -- effectively buildings within the building. These interior buildings are oddly spaced and angled to match the exterior and will probably mean each area inside the building doesn't feel too big.

To the northern side of two buildings are what appear to be water slides -- something that wouldn't be totally out of place in the Internet corporate culture of Silicon Valley -- but their actual purpose is less exciting. They are curving walkways that will take people from the office space to the parking structure that will sit underneath the building.

Facebook will submit the plans to the City of Menlo Park on Monday.

The city and local residents have been wary of plans to expand the campus because of the extra traffic it would bring to the area. The issue is likely to be high in local people's minds when planning discussions for the new campus take place.

Those discussions are likely later this year then, pending local approval, ground breaking on the campus in early 2013. It will take about two years to build.

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

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Martyn Williams

IDG News Service
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