The Dot-Com City: Silicon Valley Urbanism, Alexandra Lange
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The Dot-Com City: Silicon Valley Urbanism

Alexandra Lange is an architecture and design critic, historian and teacher based in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in Dwell, Metropolis, Print, New York Magazine and the New York Times, and she blogs weekly on Design Observer. Princeton Architectural Press published her most recent book, Writing About Architecture: Mastering the Language of Buildings and Cities, in 2012. She teaches architecture criticism at New York University and the School of Visual Arts.
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Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking.’
Can Silicon Valley invent public space as it has reinvented public life online? If the cultish ideas about serendipity and chance encounters have any value, a new urbanism (with a small n, small u) betwixt the metropolis and the ‘burbs, can only lead to more billion-dollar ideas, more employed people, and a healthier environment. And if that doesn’t occur, maybe they have been worshipping a false, groupthink god all along.
This new sort of workplace arises from a drive toward a kind of productivity that prioritises that generative potential of culture,” Crescimano writes.
to turn its back on cities and stake a claim on the suburban pastoral idyll — isolated, proprietary, verdant, and disengaged from civic space.
The questions for architects and designers working in this environment are: How do we make spaces for innovation, health and productivity? How do we foster innovation and corporate culture?
The result is that, while the outdoor la
They use the rhetoric of city planning — town squares and main streets, neighbourhoods and cafés, community gardens and food trucks — but at the back of it is literally a single chef (
As others have pointed out, with their fitted plaid shirts and soft shoes, the Facebook employee and the Ace
The company’s four original Silicon Graphics buildings set at the top of a rise, have some rakish primary-coloured panels, significant presence in the landscape, and a series of outdoor spaces with sculpture, seating, Stan the dinosaur skeleton, and a community garden
Apple headquarters is a classic example of what Louise A. Mozingo, in a book due out next month from MIT Press, calls “pastoral capitalism.”
Employees weaned from urban life by recreating its social qualities outside the city.
chtime at Facebook. At the company’s almost-completed Epic Café in Menlo Park, California, employees queue up on the dot of 12 for today’s hot lunch: Greek themed, with beet-dyed ric
Facebook’s BBQ shack suggests all the pop-up fun of a metropolitan food truck.
What these mixed-use and transportation initiatives lack is an organising set of principles. The companies need to talk to each other, to the city governments, and to their fellow citizens. They can build their own islands, but there’s a bigger opportunity here to re-imagine the city and suburb as an integrated, and integrating, innovation machine. Design can be beside the point.
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