Whilst Samsung will probably never overtake Apple in terms of global recognition at this point, one area they can at least take them on, is in sheer scale. Enter US architectural firm NBBJ, who have designed and built, for Samsung, one of the largest offices in North America. It's not only about size though, though it is bloody massive, as the new office also also incorporates a host of features intended to show how such a legacy brand can play on par with the most-nimble tech startups.
“While many workers want an energetic environment, others are happier in more focused spaces, so we designed a gradient of spaces from active to quiet, inside and out”
Located in San Jose in California's Silicon Valley, the Samsung America Headquarters encompasses 1.1 million square feet, and houses the company's US semiconductor division. The office campus features an imposing 10-storey building wrapped in a glass and white metal panels. The building itself appears as three stacked slabs sitting atop a glass podium, with large openings between each volume. This design aims references the wafer-like composition of a microchip, with the building split horizontally into three wafers of office, and the openings containing open-air terraces and amenity spaces.
The design team set out to create a facility that would enable Samsung to attract top tech and design talent. To create the ambitious design, NBBJ carved away the centre of the building, creating a sculptural light-well with a courtyard at ground level and glazed walls. A walkway in the courtyard leads to an adjacent parking garage and a wood-clad volume that houses a cafeteria. The building is divided into two zones; one for sales, and the other for research and development. To create a feeling of openness, the firm incorporated double-height spaces, floor-to-ceiling windows and sight lines to the courtyard. Three gradients of glazing were also used to mitigate solar heat gain while optimising the amount of natural light entering the facility.
“NBBJ worked with Samsung to eschew the traditional isolated tech campus for a model that is connected, transit-oriented, sustainable and community-driven”
A variety of working spaces cater to the diverse needs of employees. In addition to designated office zones, staff members can work in outdoor areas or in laboratories located along the edges of the facility. The cafeteria was placed away from offices to encourage physical activity and trips outside. The firm also incorporated amenities that include a fitness centre, nap pods and music listening rooms with coloured lighting, to ensure people can find happiness and recharge at work. There's also a bespoke Chill Zone with table football, video games, flat-screen televisions and comfortable seating. This fad for more 'fun' amenities at work is becoming a lot more common, especially in Silicon Valley, and whilst there is an argument that too much fun at work could be damaging overall, it could also be argued that the practice has certainly not hurt Pixar's productivity!
Samsung's corporate campus is the first in San Jose to utilise the city's new urban design principles, which call for taller buildings, street-front developments and commercial spaces to activate the pedestrian realm. Other projects in Silicon Valley include a Google headquarters by BIG and Heatherwick Studio and a plan by architect Rafael Viñoly to convert an ageing shopping centre into a vast development featuring the world's largest roof garden. Last year, Facebook also moved into its swish new Silicon Valley campus designed by Frank Gehry.
Benjamin Hiorns is a freelance writer and struggling musician from the dark heart of Kidderminster in the UK.