Beijing Finance Street, a project with the landscape as a central spine in an 18-block real-estate and mixed-use development. Photography by Tom Fox.


What is the future of the corporate campus? As designers work with the next generation of real estate leaders, I had a chance to write about the changes happening in the design world and what “Corporate Campus 3.0″ will look like. The following is an excerpt from The LEADER, Corporate Real Estate & Workplace (May/June 2013)


Cultural Urbanism and Landscape Urbanism: Corporate Campus 3.0

As populations have begun a trend toward ‘re-urbanization,’ companies are faced with creating workplaces that centralize their business while also giving employees the sustainable, community-driven environment they desire. There is no greater place to see this creative tension than in the hotbed of the technology industry — Silicon Valley.

Demographic and sociological changes are transforming how a campus “works” for companies attracting mobile, educated, talented employees. These knowledge workers seek out the best fit for their career, of course, but they are also highly motivated by sociological and lifestyle aspirations. That means companies find they can no longer just ‘build it, and they will come,’ but are creating workplaces that are often a key reason an employee chooses the company, and more importantly, stays.

Cultural urbanism and landscape urbanism, two design trends that have been taking on a strong influence in real estate development, are springing up in Silicon Valley and San Francisco and resonating in places from Beijing to Salt Lake City. What do these guideposts offer facility designers worldwide?

Beijing Financial Street

Beijing Finance Street, Photography by Tom Fox.

In Northern California, workplace design is creating spaces that take into account the cultural and physical surroundings that make the area unique and attractive in the first place. This ‘cultural urbanism’ borrows from a place’s context so that facilities enhance the work experience as well as contribute to the communities in which they are built. In purely urban environments like San Francisco, companies such as Twitter, Salesforce and others are adopting spaces that reflect the urban vibe and excitement of living and working in one of the world’s greatest cities.

It’s a slightly different story in Silicon Valley, whose origins were orchards and farms before technology took root. The context and attractions of this suburban environment derive more from the landscapes and outdoors — and also bring the outdoors in. ‘Landscape urbanism’ suggests that facility designers approach a campus here even more through the lens of the land and natural systems and literally build upon those cues. But even Silicon Valley is becoming more urban as densities increase along highway and rail corridors.

According to a report published by the Silicon Valley Community Foundation in 2012, 30 percent of the total population of Silicon Valley is 25-44 years old. While this is essentially average for American cities, it’s unusual for this once-suburban locale whose very name — Silicon Valley — eludes having a main city or “address.” Every day, masses of young professionals commute from surrounding areas. They want to work in the technology industry, but also want aspects of an urban lifestyle with the convenience of the city.

In all these situations, corporate real estate directors and developers are changing the standards of the corporate campus — urban and suburban alike — from one dictated by the car and an interior-focused workplace, to one of landscape-driven, culturally-resonant urban design. These workplaces incorporate a sensibility of their individual settings, while maximizing the opportunities of sustainable design, ample public space and local infrastructure.

The question, then, is how do developers and designers create places that promote cultural identity and foster more frequent and higher-quality social interaction, both within the workplace to foster ideas and creativity, and within the community to enhance responsible corporate citizenship?

This was part of the ASLA Northern California Chapter Lecture Series this Spring 2013 (May 21, 2013). Read the full article on The LEADER, May/June 2013, here.

Rene Bihan-Square-BW-200Rene Bihan is the Managing Principal of SWA Group’s San Francisco Office and the lead writer for “Landscape Is The Answer,“ a blog series here on IDEAS focused on understanding landscape (and design’s) role in creating better urban, social, and environmental places.


Back to Top

Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)