Space Age Campus Designs For The Tech Big-Wigs Are Transforming The Concept Of Office Space

Apple, Google, E-Bay and more are becoming as revolutionary with their offices as they are with their products.

By Jeff Vasishta January 5, 2017
Headquarters of Shutterstock. Photo courtesy of Bilyana Dimitrova

If you look at renderings of new office spaces from hi-tech megaliths Apple, Google, eBay and others, you could be forgiven for thinking that a space-ship had landed in Silicon Valley. Their products are known for being revolutionary, and so it follows that conventional work campuses would not suffice. In terms of shape, color and materials, some of these buildings look as if they teleported straight from a science fiction film.

As you’d expect, most eye catching is Apple’s new $5B circular four story campus. It looks like a cross between a space-ship and athletics stadium. Curved glass will enclose the entire structure meaning that employees can look out at all times. No corner offices with a view for the big wigs. Architect Lord Norman Foster got the idea from looking at London Square in East London, which, as the name suggests is a square.

However, the concept of buildings around a landscaped center stuck. The late Steve Jobs can be credited with inspiration too after being influenced by Stanford University’s Main Quad. As is Apple’s way, rounding off the square corners, eventually resulted in a circular building. As reported on Bisnow, the original building contractors were Skanska and DPR, but they parted ways from the project in early 2015 and were replaced by Rudolph & Sletten Construction. Jobs actually presented the Cupertino City Council the plans in 2011, shortly before his death.

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The building on 176-acres of prime Silicon Valley land was purchased for close to $500 million and is pretty swanky even by Apple’s exalted standards. It will house 13,000 employees in 2.8 million square-feet. There will be a 3,000-square-foot cafe, 1,000-seat auditorium, a fitness center, and a dedicated plant generator powered by natural gas and solar panels. There are also 600, 000 square feet of research facilities and over 10,000 parking spaces, including 300 EV charging stations.

Educational software company, Blackboard doesn’t have such lofty plans—but for a 300-person company, their 71,000 square feet on 3 floors at 1111 19th Street NW in Washington DC packs a powerful punch. Most importantly, the company installed commercial-grade coffee machines in the ninth floor break room to ensure enough caffeine was pumped through its employees to keep a herd of bollocks awake for a week,—let alone a team of tech-head millennials.

The open floor concept also allows plenty of open space for collaboration.There is no elevator between the three floors—just stairs and plenty of lounges to foster idea sharing.

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Clearly chatting and staying fit are at the forefront of tech bosses minds when plans for their buildings are discussed. Shutterstock’s offices inside the Empire State Building features one of the largest staircases in the building, and that’s saying something. Quiet nooks encourage informal chats.

Put the words Google, London, and renowned architects B.I.G. into the same sentence—and wait for something dramatic to unfold. Situated in the trendy Kings Cross/St Pancras area, where they already have an office, the 650 square-foot London headquarters is currently under development at 6 Pancras Square. As well as a running track, there will be free food, massages, and cooking classes. Rumor has it, employees may also be required to work there.

E-Bay’s 20,000 square-foot expansion in San Jose embraces the concept of light and airy. Large, interactive displays and dynamic media installations are order of the day with outside decks to refresh employees minds and inspire them to grow plants instead of simply buying and selling them. Inside, in case visitors forgot their glasses, there’s 15-foot touch-screen wall with icons of various items to see how many of them were recently sold.




Jeff Vasishta



Jeff is a writer, husband and father but not necessarily in that order. As a music journalist he counts Prince, Beyonce and Quincy Jones amongst those he’s interviewed. He's also owned and flipped homes in Brooklyn, NJ, CT and PA.

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