Facebook Taps OMA To Rethink Tech’s Biggest Urban Design Problems
Today, Facebook announced preliminary plans for an expansion of its Menlo Park campus. The master plan, designed by OMA, will include a grocery store, retail space, publicly accessible parks and greenways, 1,500 housing units, a hotel, and a cultural center. But more than anything, Facebook’s announcement emphasizes one thing: a strong relationship with the surrounding community. While other tech companies have been criticized for their isolationist approach to their neighbors, Facebook wants to take a different approach.
“Working with the community, our goal for the Willow Campus is to create an integrated, mixed-use village that will provide much needed services, housing and transit solutions as well as office space,” John Tenanes, vice president of global facilities and real estate at Facebook, writes in a release. “Part of our vision is to create a neighborhood center that provides long-needed community services.”
A major impetus of “Willow Campus,” as the master plan is named, is alleviating traffic congestion wrought by the commute to Menlo Park, which employees loathe. Moreover, commuters are creating congestion on San Francisco Bay Area’s highways and contributing to carbon emissions. In 2015, the company even offered a $10,000 bonus for employees to live closer to its headquarters.
Unlike Apple’s insular walled garden, Facebook is proposing a walkable neighborhood that’s open and accessible to the public. In its promotional video, members from Facebook’s real estate, sustainability, and policy teams stress how the development is designed to be a village that will create community, economic opportunities, and add density necessary to support more public transportation infrastructure. This all sounds good on paper–though good intentions are common in development in Silicon Valley, while outcomes frequently fall short.
The project is still its nascent stages; OMA tells Co.Design the master plan is still in progress and Facebook has yet to file official plans to city officials, which it expects to do this summer. Then it plans to engage in a back and forth with local government and community groups during the review process.
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