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Landscape as Corporate Identity

Location Mountain View, California, United States

Client Silicon Graphics, Inc.

Scope Landscape Architecture

Size 26 acres (105,218 m2) - 10.5 hectares, park - 5 acres - 2 hectares, office - 500,000 sf - 46,451.5 m2

VITALS

Recreation and pleasure infuse a corporate space

Landscape maximized with underground parking

Garages ventilated without mechanical equipment

Project originated as competition to redevelop brownfield

As a winner of the ASLA’s Centennial Medallion, this project is recognized as one of the most significant landscapes of the last century. The design of the former SGI campus (now Google) and the adjacent Charleston Park challenges conventional thinking about public and private space. The project began as the winning entry in a competition held by the City of Mountain View to develop the 26-acre brownfield site with an R&D campus and a five-acre public park. The design creates a strong identity for the campus and provides a much-needed civic space, while blurring distinctions between the private and public realms.

SWA collaborated closely with the architects, developer and city from master planning through implementation, and played an essential role in securing public approvals. This creative collaboration led to two key planning decisions: first, to treat the campus and park as one landscape; and second, because of the large building footprints, to assert the presence of the landscape by raising the buildings and locating most of the 1,700 parking spaces below podium level. At the east and west ends of the project, the landscape slopes up to the podium from natural grade, providing a seamless connection from the park on the east through the campus to the improved creek corridor on the west.

The landscape, like the architecture, was designed to reflect the purpose of SGI and its unofficial corporate philosophy of “serious fun.” The coexistence of pleasure and work is ensured by the character of outdoor spaces and further expressed by the two formal systems that shape circulation through the site. Sweeping curves suggest leisure. Straight lines, derived from the building column grid, express efficiency.

At the lower level of the park, a brick plaza provides for frequent concerts and civic gatherings. The plaza’s bold striped pattern continues up the slope through a series of terraces and shallow pools. Rows of cherry trees and horsetail reinforce the graphic clarity of the composition. The presence of water suggests the fluid boundary between the park and campus. A grove of Grecian laurels at the top of the slope marks the literal, although imperceptible, line between public and private land.

A sinuous yellow brick path ties the campus’ three gardens together. The contemplative East Garden’s circular mounds echo the Calaveros Hills seen in the distance beyond. The Central Garden is a place where the entire SGI community can gather. Since this space cannot structurally support the weight of trees, umbrellas become the vertical shade-giving elements. The West Garden is devoted to recreation, and a volleyball court within a grove of elms is in constant use. Just to the north, a bocce court is contained within a small, elegant, rectangular garden. Within each of the major gardens, at the building stair towers, the ground is cut away to create openings which naturally ventilate the garage without the need for mechanical equipment.

The site was bought by Google in 2004 to be their Corporate Headquarters.

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