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Heart’s Delight?

The Architecture of Silicon Valley


“Silicon Valley” lies beneath foothills at the southern end of San Francisco Bay. Once called “The Valley of Heart’s Delight,” the area was home to verdant fruit orchards that enjoyed abundant natural fertility and balmy weather. Perhaps Stanford University did the most to attract engineering disciplines to the region. The invention of the microprocessor brought a flood of investment and business. Silicon Valley was born, and soon hosted the most powerful and innovative companies in a thriving computer industry. The homes the companies built there are, if you will, living for machines. With the relocation of labor markets to the Far East, many buildings now stand vacant. Perhaps one day these homages to hubris will give way to orchards.

Cover: America Center - 300000 square feet completed in 2008 and never occupied photo credit: David Cheney

The Valley of Heart’s Delight The landscapes of the Santa Clara Valley were fairly drenched with sunshine, all the air was quivering with the songs of the meadowlarks, and the hills were so covered with flowers that they seemed to be painted. John Muir, 1868


Intel Corporation was founded in 1968. The pioneer of the microprocessor, its core business remained computer memory chips until the personal computer revolution of the early 1980’s. Thirty years later it remains the world’s leader in its industry. Named for co-founder Robert Noyce -- who has also been called “the mayor of Silicon Valley” -- their headquarters building is one in a complex of 3 local campuses with over 3 million square feet and housing six thousand employees. The building shows many of the traits of architectural Modernism: a simple and functional form; spare or missing ornamentation; construction in concrete, metal, and glass; and steel. White was an extremely popular color in Modernist architecture; cool blue glazing compliments the color of the brand.

Intel Corporate Headquarters photo credit: davidcmc58


Founded in 1976, Apple has become nearly synonymous with elegant design and ease of use. Apple innovations in consumer electronics are legendary, and Fortune magazine named Apple the most admired company in the world in 2009. Apple “cool” is expressed in broad low architecture. Their headquarters are located in the middle of Silicon Valley at 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino, California. Six campus buildings total 850,000 square feet. The campus was completed in 1993 by Sobrato Development, a company which claims to have “played a pivotal role in shaping Silicon Valley with unique facilities that provide compelling benefits for forwardthinking companies.”

Apple retail store entry, New York City photo credit: nk

Apple Corporate Headquarters photo credit: Sobrato


Oracle Corporation, founded in 1977, has the 3rd highest revenues of any software company. Their 3 million square-foot headquarters contains six office buildings, four parking garages, and fitness and conference centers. Several cafes serve employees -- who also enjoy a bakery, a florist, a shoe repair shop and a dry cleaner. Here, modern architectural cubes converge with post-modern curves. Blue-green mirrored glazing compliments sky and sea. Multiple towers stretch into a looming presence. Employees can see the world, but we cannot see them. “... maybe mirrored towers aren’t such a bad metaphor for this giant of the database world. Whatever attacks are launched at the company or its egocentric head just seem to be reflected right back.” -- Edifice Complex by Hank Shiffman

Oracle Corporate Headquarters photo credit: Peter Kaminski


Adobe Systems, Inc. entered the desktop publishing business in 1982. In 1989 the company introduced its market-dominating Photoshop. Two 18-story towers and one 16-story tower house nearly 1 million square feet of office space for 2300 local employees. A sky bridge joins two of the towers at the 15th and 16th floors. Adobe invested $1.4 million investment in green retrofits and has already realized a $1.59 million return. In 2006 their headquarters received three Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) platinum certifications. The campus was designed by Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum -- a leader in “Green Design.�

Adobe Corporate Headquarters photo credit: coolcaesar


Yahoo!, Inc. was formed in 1995. By 2007 the worldrenowned Internet service provider was receiving over 3 billion page views every day. The Yahoo campus, completed in 2001, consists of 820,000 square feet of office space in five buildings. In this building clean, efficient, and nerdy metal cladding with a Yahoo! nametag is balanced by some post-modern deviation from the right angle - and a drawer handle?!

Yahoo Corporate Headquarters photo credit: davidcmc58


Also founded in 1995, eBay is the leading online auction and shopping web site. On May 8th of 2008 eBay announced the opening of its newest building, the first structure in San Jose to be built to the LEED Gold Standard. An array of 3,248 solar panels provides 650 kilowatts of power to eBay’s campus - 15-18 percent of its total energy requirements. The building detects natural light and dims artificial lighting to reduce power requirements up to 39 percent. All that, and a playful interior!

eBay Corporate Headquarters photo credits: ebayink


The valley lives on ... as does high-tech. Network communications equipment manufacturer Brocade is spending $250M on a complex clad in - what else? - bluegreen glass. A joint venture with Hunter/Storm and MacFarlane Partners, the project consists of 4 buildings totaling 880,000 square feet, including 250,000 square feet of retail, a hotel, and a health club.

Brocade Corporate Headquarters photo credit: David Cheney


�Two vast and trunkless legs of stone stand in the desert . . . . near them, on the sand, half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown, and wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command, tell that its sculptor well those passions read which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things, the hand that mocked them, the heart that fed; and on the pedestal, these words appear: my name is Ozymandias, King of Kings, Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair! Nothing beside remains. Round the decay Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare the lone and level sands stretch far away.�

-- Shelley (1818)

A far too common sight (July 2009) photo credit: David Cheney


David Cheney Design specializes in clear, elegant communications in print, video, and on the web


Silicon Valley Architecture