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OMA design Facebook: The Village

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Given its relatively humble beginnings (see the film “The Social Network” for proof), and its general brand identity as the cool, calm cousin to Google's hyperactive uncle, Facebook is not a company that one would expect to possess the audacity to create their very own village. That's exactly what the social media giants are planning, however, with the company recently announcing that OMA will be masterplanning a new village to sit adjacent Facebook's Californian headquarters.

The social media giant enlisted OMA's New York office to redevelop the former Menlo Science & Technology Park, a 56-acre property that the social media giant acquired last year, located south of its headquarters. According to Facebook, the “Willow Campus” neighbourhood will provide “long-needed community services,” including housing and transportation solutions. The scheme will also feature other amenities, like 125,000-square-feet of retail space, including food shops and a pharmacy, and plots for new offices.

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From the few available pictures it appears like a very similar concept to the Disney “Celebration” and “Golden Oak” projects, which saw the house of mouse develop idyllic villages adjacent to the Walt Disney World site in Orlando, Florida. The key difference, however, is that whilst those projects primarily targeted the very wealthy, the neighbourhood, which will sit opposite the social media network's Frank Gehry-designed campus in Melo Park, California, aims to provide affordable housing in the area, primarily as a means of capping the growth in traffic from commuters.

The masterplan will comprise a total of 1,500 homes, with 15% to be offered at below market rates. The increase in the density of housing is also intended to spur on new east-to-west transport connections and the development of a transit centre in the area. The plan will be filed with Menlo Park for approval this month, and followed by conversations with government officials that are expected to last two years.

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OMA partner Shohei Shigematsu, who leads the firm's New York office, said: “It's exciting to collaborate with Facebook, whose innovation in networking and social media extends to urban ambitions for connectivity in the Bay Area. The Willow Campus masterplan creates a sense of place with diverse programming that responds to the needs of the Menlo Park community.”

Shops, housing and offices included in the first phase of the works are slated for completion in early 2021 with subsequent phases planned to finish in 2023. Facebook also plans to help local workers access the jobs made available by the construction, presumably by offering low-cost housing incentives. It all seems like a perfectly benevolent plan, but the question remains; would you really want to live in a village manufactured, designed, built and maintained by your employer? Even is that employer was Facebook? Frankly, I'm not so sure. It does look lovely though!

Benjamin Hiorns is a freelance writer and musician from Kidderminster in the UK.

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