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Facebook's New Frank Gehry-Designed Office: High Line or Hobbit Walmart?

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Ever since it was unveiled in 2013, Facebook's scheme for its new Menlo Park headquarters has wrestled to contain twin impulses: enormousness and casualness, environmentalism and car dependency. When Gehry Partners came out with a design showing a cavernous office space on stilts, sandwiched between parking below and a roof garden above, the Observer opined that Facebook had basically hired Frank Gehry to build Mark Zuckerberg a hobbit hole in Palo Alto (read: Menlo Park). In Vanity Fair, Paul Goldberger called the design a workroom under a garden while worrying that it might end up resembling a convention center. Finally, over the weekend, Facebook began moving into the building—which sits just over the highway from its existing campus—and, judging from the photos Wired got ahold of, all of those things came true.

Gehry conceived the 430,000-square-foot complex as one long, continuous workspace—an open plan on steroids. "Mark said he wanted to be in the same room with all his engineers," the architect told Bloomberg in 2012. "I told him we could put the building up on stilts, park cars underneath and create a room as large as he wanted." The LEED-certified structure is certainly more understated than Apple's space donut or Google's robot-assisted glass tent-rooms, but anything suited to hold up to 2,800 employees will have trouble tucking itself into the terrain with anything that looks like subtlety. Particularly when that terrain is marshland on the edge of a highway.

And so Gehry contrived a new landscape for the roof, a nine-acre expanse of lawn and pathways 70 feet in the air. The Facebook human resources employee interviewed by Wired rather breathlessly compares the experience of walking it to a stroll along the High Line. (That analogy feels a bit hasty, though the notion of a brand-new work of designer Silicon Valley architecture as disused infrastructure both charms and scares us.)

Gehry himself doesn't seem to be striving for a High Line-style gesture of civic grandeur, though. "From the start, Mark wanted a space that was unassuming, matter-of-fact, and cost effective," the architect says in statement, referring to noted minimalist Mark Zuckerberg. "He did not want it overly designed." The result hovers somewhere between a dutiful stab at a building as a work of natural infrastructure and a Walmart as imagined by hobbits.

The thing we're dying to see, though, is the tunnel under Highway 84 that Gehry's firm designed to connect the two campuses. We can't find any photographic evidence of it in Co.Design's repository of Instagrams taken inside the fortress. Has anyone been down there yet?

Poll results

· Facebook Basically Hired Frank Gehry to Build Zuck a Hobbit Hole in Palo Alto [The Observer]
· The Shape of Things to Come [Vanity Fair]
· Facebook Moves into Its New Garden-Roofed Fantasyland [Wired]
· Drone Footage Shows the Apple Spaceship Taking Shape [Curbed SF]
· Here's Google's Plan for Its Futuristic, Robot-Assisted Glassy New Campus [Curbed SF]
· Mark Zuckerberg's Insane Reno Caught on Google Street View
· A First Look At Facebook's New Mothership, Designed By Frank Gehry [Co.Design]
· Previous Coverage of Facebook [Curbed SF]