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Two Campuses Silicon Built
The boom and bust cycles of Silicon Valley demand a different, more flexible workplace.
By Frank Edgerton Martin

Northern California has long been a region of innovation in landscape architecture and campus planning. From the early Bay Area public schools and parks designed by Lawrence Halprin, FASLA, in the 1950s to the pedestrian-friendly Foothills College designed in Los Altos Hills by Sasaki Walker Associates, the postwar growth of the region created new models for public space in the Automotive Age.

Forty years later, Silicon Graphics Inc. (SGI), working with landscape architects from The SWA Group, is building corporate campuses that depart from the traditional office park bastion surrounded by parking. Instead, the buildings open to embrace a continuum of gardens and plazas that flow from public to private space. As an established industry leader in the virtual imaging and used by the military to simulate weapons and by industry to test new products, SGI is well accustomed to innovation. The next generation of virtual exhibits for science museums and world fairs is already in use within the test labs of SGI's leading clients and in the highly secured labs of its own facilities.

It's no secret that high technology is a volatile industry where stock option booms can turn to bust in six months. For companies like SGI, the greatest resources are human talent, collaboration, and ingenuity. Keeping the best employees loyal means treating them well with exercise rooms, meditation chambers, gardens, and active recreation areas that can relieve the stress of all-nighters and looming deadlines.

Dan Tuttle, ASLA, has worked with SGI in the design of three campuses in the Mountain View area north of San Jose. As the second project to come on line, the SGI Amphitheater Technology Center, or "Charleston campus," is a significant model in design for knowledge workers—the all-important "symbolic analysts" who write software, develop new imaging techniques, and envision new applications for technology in life and business. These information gurus are, as economist Richard Florida has argued, generally active young adults who "place a high value on amenities and the environment in their choices of where to live and work." Landscape architects have an important role to play in keeping them happy.

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