C. Thomas Gilman
PCBC Grand Award,
Goldne Nugget Awards,
399 Bradford Street, Redwood City, CA 9463
DES, after being in business over 40 years, has solidified itself as one of the top firms in the Bay Area. Covering multiple industries including healthcare, technology, and education, DES is a force of excellence, creativity, and efficiency. As a firm, DES is award-winning, receiving the Grand Award and two Gold Nuggets from the 2015 PCBC (Pacific Coast Builder) conference. Most recently, they were recognized at the 2017 Structures Awards for Design Tech High School, a public charter school at Oracle’s headquarters. At the helm of DES is Susan Eschweiler, a principal and the firm’s vice president. She is both architect and interior designer, bringing a unique set of talents to her projects and a passion for creating communities, such as building campuses and work environments. Craig Ivanovich, also a principal and vice president, has a talent for managing large, complex projects.
One of DES’s most notable projects within the Silicon Valley community might be GoDaddy. A company as audacious and bold as GoDaddy is completely deserving of a headquarters to match its style and personality. The campus contains a large number of outdoor materials, giving GoDaddy a playful, lively feel. To get a notion of the pace and energy at the site, the hallways are literal racetracks, complete with go-karts that employees can pedal from one end of the building to the other. Everything at GoDaddy seems to say activity. There is movement within the layout and open spaces, as well as the furnishings, which feature things like adjustable desks and movable seating pods. The design creates a natural flow between work and play, as well as an environment that thrives on inspiration and creation.
550 Ellis Street, Mountain View, CA 94043
DGA is another major player in the realm of Silicon Valley architecture. With locations also in San Francisco, Sacramento, and San Diego, DGA has been recognized for their leading designs of facilities related to life sciences, technology, healthcare, and education. Their central focus and philosophy is around uniting design and technology for high-quality projects. Randall Dowler is the president of DGA, as well as the managing principal at DGA Silicon Valley. Fun fact: DGA’s own office in San Diego is currently in the spotlight as an Orchid nominee from the San Diego Architectural Foundation’s Orchids and Onions.
One of DGA’s major strengths is lab facilities. They are behind Lockheed Martin’s R&D building in Palo Alto, HGST R&D building in San Jose, and the Gilead lab building in Foster City. While they might sound small, these lab facilities are anything but small projects. The Gilead building is a four-story, 190k-square-foot lab in Vintage Park. DGA was also instrumental in the expansion of the data storage company HGST, Inc. While HGST was a longstanding company in the San Jose area, they were in need of new facilities to adapt to their growth and the updated business. Even with the R&D building, DGA was part of the changing landscape of Silicon Valley architecture in an effort to focus more on vertical structures.
AIA Honor Awards,
AIA Merit Awards
88 Kearny Street, Suite 900, San Francisco, CA 94108
As we move down the list, we enter the realm of some internationally recognized firms and architects. In this case, NBBJ has an office in San Francisco, but also in nine other locations across the globe, including Beijing, London, New York, and Shanghai. As a multidisciplinary and global firm, NBBJ is not only known around the world, but has also received the accolades to show it. From healthcare design, urban planning and landscaping, NBBJ’s list of awards and honors seems to only grow year after year. Though we’re focusing on Silicon Valley, it should be noted that NBBJ is also working with Alibaba, one of the largest internet companies (located in China).
NBBJ earns their spot on the list for their award-winning project in Silicon Valley, Samsung’s headquarters. The behemoth campus stands at 10 stories, with a white metal, glass, and terracotta exterior. The structure’s unique form would catch anyone’s eye, and luckily some of the facilities are rumored to be open to the public. The campus design gives Samsung the ability to make a strong statement about their brand and make a powerful impact on efficiency and sustainability. The building was designed to reduce solar heat gain, which, as a result, reduces energy costs. There is a large courtyard and an amount of greenery that is rare for a high-rise workspace like this one. The facility recently received the Award of Merit from the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Los Angeles, as well as an IDEAS award from the American Institute of Steel Construction.
12541 Beatrice Street, Los Angeles, CA 90066
About Frank Gehry
Frank Gehry is no doubt a living legend when it comes to American architecture. Vanity Fair called him “the most important architect of our age.” Notable buildings include the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, the Vitra Design Museum in Germany, Millennium Park in Chicago, Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris, and, maybe most famously, the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. The Guggenheim Museum has since become a tourist attraction and spawned terms like “the Bilbao effect,” in reference to building a cultural institution in your city that will put it ‘on the map,’ so to speak, in way that boosts tourism, investment, and overall energy and vibrance.
While Gehry resides in Santa Monica, his work spans the globe and in this case brings him to Silicon Valley. His reputation and talent brought him to the valley for none other than the Silicon Valley titan, Facebook. When Zuckerberg and the Facebook employees moved into their new headquarters in 2015, the 40k-square-meter building was considered “the largest open floor plan in the world.” Gehry designed the building so that 2,800 employees would essentially share one room. The vastly open plan is meant to create space for engineers to collaborate. The interior features custom art pieces by local artists, as well as a rooftop park, a walking trail, and over 400 trees. Gehry was later asked to design the Facebook offices in London and Dublin.
Foster + Partners
Pritzker Architecture Prize,
AIA Gold Medal,
Prince of Asturias Award in the Arts
1 Infinite Loop, MS: 21-3AC2, Cupertino, CA 95014
About Foster + Partners
Foster + Partners is a global studio founded by Norman Foster in 1967. With sustainability at the center of everything they do, Foster + Partners is known for upholding global environmental standards and holistic design. Norman Foster, owner and chairman, is a renowned British architect whose accolades include the Pritzker Architecture Prize (1999) – considered the Nobel Prize of architecture, the AIA Gold Medal (1994), and the Prince of Asturias Award in the Arts category (2009).
The Apple Park project has been nearly eight years in the making, beginning with Steve Jobs asking Norman Foster to design Apple’s headquarters. In April of 2017, the concept has finally come to fruition. The tech giant, and one of the founding companies of Silicon Valley itself, has been at the center of some heated conversations about their new facility. Wired, a technology magazine, has openly bashed the building, citing that the project does not consider the city of Cupertino, going as far to say that the campus simply “sucks.” Given that this project is at the center of debate, the firm and the project sit in the middle of this list. Adam Rogers, author of the Wired article, makes the point that the circular structure of the building leaves no room for change or expansion for Apple, in a space where adaptability has been central in the past to Silicon Valley’s successes.
ENR California Design Firm of the Year,
USGBC Organizational Excellence Award,
USGBC Natural Leader Award
One Bush Street, Suite 200, San Francisco, CA 94104
HOK is an American architecture firm originally named after its three founders, George Hellmuth, Gyo Obata, and George Kassabaum. They established the firm in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1955. Since then, HOK has become a global presence with 1,700 employees and 23 offices on three continents. HOK prides itself on its mission for exceptional design blended with human need, environmental awareness, value, science, and art. Since their beginning, HOK has been a thought-leader in architecture by introducing software solutions that have advanced architectural design, as well as implementing new and streamlined processes into their business. In 2012, HOK was ranked the number one design firm for technology expertise. They continue to lead in sustainable design and have even written a guidebook on the matter. In 2010, HOK completed Net Zero Court, a zero-emissions commercial office building located in St. Louis.
While HOK may have been founded in Missouri, the firm still has early roots in Silicon Valley architecture. One of their earlier projects was Xerox PARC in Palo Alto in 1970, and then Apple’s R&D campus in 1993. However, more recently, HOK has taken on a project that Silicon Valley Business Journal has deemed “one of the more interesting office projects ever proposed in Silicon Valley.” The office project is the Central & Wolfe Campus — a futuristic office space featuring an open plaza, public art, a 500-person amphitheater, a dining terrace, and outdoor pavilions. Additionally, HOK has been behind some other amazing Silicon Valley projects, including the Gunderson Dettmer Headquarters, a law firm in Menlo Park; and Autodesk in downtown San Francisco.
WSJ Innovator of the Year,
Danish Crown Prince’s Culture Prize
61 Broadway, Suite 3300, New York, NY 10006
BIG is not a Silicon Valley- or Bay Area-based firm, and yet they’ve made number three on the list — namely for the huge project they are undertaking in Silicon Valley. BIG is a firm with its roots in Copenhagen, New York, and London, but they have projects throughout Europe, North America, Asia, and the Middle East. BIG is a collective of architects, designers, and builders who have a contemporary focus that balances pragmatism and utopia. Behind BIG is Bjarke Ingels, its founding partner. Ingels has become known for his ability to create and design buildings that are as innovative as they are cost and resource conscious. He was named Innovator of the Year by the Wall Street Journal, received the Danish Crown Prince’s Culture Prize in 2011, and, in 2016, was even named one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World.
BIG is joining forces with Heatherwick Studio to take on Google’s new headquarters in Mountain View, marking the first time Google is building their office complex from the ground up. The design will include lightweight structures, enabling flexibility as the company changes and invests in various areas of the business. One of the unique features will be translucent canopies that will hover over buildings and outdoor areas, providing climate control while still allowing natural light and ventilation throughout. The look and feel in the renderings is inspiring and futuristic to say the least. The new campus will take advantage of the environment and natural surroundings, even including owl habitats and creek beds. With the project, BIG, as well as Heatherwick, understands the need to help Google become a true neighborhood that serves the community of Mountain View.
John A. Ruffo
AIA COTE Top Ten Green Projects Awards,
AIA Honor Awards,
AIA Merit Awards
501 Second Street, Suite 402, San Francisco, CA 94107
In 2013, WRNS was named the number one architecture firm in the US by Architect magazine. Firms were evaluated by a panel of judges and ranked in three categories: business, sustainability, and design excellence. WRNS Studio has a diverse and wildly impressive portfolio, which is even more impressive given they were only a 60-person firm at the time of recognition. Their projects now range from the Hayes Valley Playground in San Francisco to the Tahoe City Transit Center, as well as the corporate campus for Adobe in Utah. WRNS recently received the AIA Committee on the Environment (COTE) Top Ten Green Projects Award, in addition to several other AIA design awards. WRNS solidifies its place in the top of the list as they continue work with institutions like Stanford, Airbnb, Adobe, and Microsoft.
A notable player that WRNS has worked with is Airbnb. WRNS was brought in to help the company expand their headquarters in San Francisco. They needed a space that could continue to grow with them as they scale, and meet their employees need to choose how and where they work. Flexibility, collaboration, good acoustics, and multifunction furnishings were central to the Airbnb campus. In 2014, WRNS joined interior designers Clive Wilkinson Architects to expand Intuit’s offices in Mountain View, CA. The design was intended to be human centered and more sustainable. Intuit really wanted to honor their employees and support their company mission, and WRNS helped them bring that to life. The facility features outdoor terraces, atriums, cafes, bicycle parking, showers, and recreation.
J. Kevin Schaeffer
ENR #1 Green Building Design Firm in Commercial Offices,
Building Design + Construction Giants #1 Office Sector Architecture Firm,
Interior Award for Education
225 West Santa Clara Street, Suite 1100, San Jose, CA 95113
Gensler is the largest architecture firm in the world. It was founded in 1965 by Art and Drue Gensler, with their partner James Follett. They are number one on this list not only for that, but because of the sheer number of offices they have built in Silicon Valley. Their projects span from Adobe, North First Street, and COG in San Jose; to Intel RNB and Pivot in Santa Clara; and Intuit Cook Campus Center in Palo Alto. Finally, Gensler continues to lead year after year in interior design, healthcare, and top design firms, and they maintain their status as a forerunner in sustainable building design.
Just this year, Gensler broke barriers using VR as a core technology to help them build the new headquarters for NVIDIA in Santa Clara, CA. The structure has been in construction for almost a decade and is being led by Hao Ko, principal and design director at Gensler. From a bird’s eye view, the building seems to almost represent a microchip, and thanks to NVIDIA’s technology, they helped develop the virtual reality aspects of the design process. This allowed designers to create renderings in a short amount of time and easily create realistic simulations that could even capture light intensity. NVIDIA and Gensler are paving the way for the future of architecture and design.