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Facebook's Willow Campus designer: Creating part of a new city

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Shohei Shigematsu. (Photo by Bruce Damonte.)

Lead designer of the Facebook project, Shohei Shigematsu of OMA New York, said in an interview with the Almanac that the biggest challenge of the Willow Campus project so far has been to "create a sense of place."

"I think that's why we had to create, basically, part of a new city – not just a typical office park venture," said Mr. Shigematsu, who heads the architectural firm's New York office. "The most important part, he said, was developing the public spaces.

Mr. Shigematsu has worked on such projects as the Faena Forum in Miami Beach and the Musee national des beaux-arts du Quebec in Ontario, Canada.

Compared to Amazon and Google, he noted, companies that have also used international architecture firms for their buildings, he said, "I think the framework of the Willow Campus is very different," he said. "It's not about the architectural icon but about creating iconic space ... that's a beautiful thing about this project."

Mr. Shigematsu said that the guidelines for development in Menlo Park's updated general plan provided a "great framework" for the project. "We were creative enough to interpret the general plan into a slightly more specific response," he said.

"The density is quite high compared to the rest of Menlo Park," he admitted, noting that studies were done to analyze traffic patterns and movements. "We are quite confident it will work out, even with this density," he said.

Consolidating the parking into garages toward the interior of the site, he noted, will allow most of the campus to be car-free.

Though the refined architectural plans haven't been completed, he said, the plan is to integrate the new buildings with the existing architectural character: playful, casual and not pretentious. "That's the kind of essence we got from Menlo Park and the Facebook culture," he said.

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4 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Jul 14, 2017 at 9:08 am

I'm really want to check it out once it is built. It's a quick bike ride from my house, and it looks like it's going to be pretty neat. Could be a nice place to go for lunch and to do a bit of work in the open air.

Like this comment
Posted by Access?
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 14, 2017 at 12:56 pm

Would non-Facebook people have access to it?

9 people like this
Posted by No to Facebook
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 14, 2017 at 4:11 pm

Menlo Park does not need to be recreated, it needs to be preserved and prevented from becoming Facebooktown. The city council should be focusing on a payroll tax for companies with more than 250 employees so the city will get more of a benefit from companies like Facebook who don't pay local sales tax.

9 people like this
Posted by Clueless
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jul 14, 2017 at 5:29 pm

Mr. Shigematsu seems like a nice young man but he is living in another world. In this world the infrastructure to accommodate E-W traffic has exceeded its maximum capacity and consists of complete gridlock from 8 a.m. - 10 a.m., and from 3 p.m. - 7 p.m. If he wants to create a "Sense of Space", he could start with Willow Road. Maybe Elon Musk could come up with vacuum tubes or a special SpaceX shuttle solve for accessibility because I haven't heard one realistic study from Facebook on how to do that.

8 people like this
Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 14, 2017 at 6:39 pm

It's too bad Facebook isn't located in another world.

Like this comment
Posted by pdj
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jul 14, 2017 at 8:20 pm

pdj is a registered user.

This may offer an unique opportunity to encourage all M2 development to be 100% sustainable. The next step should be the sharing of technology with their neighbors.

4 people like this
Posted by Bluth
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jul 19, 2017 at 2:01 am

The idea that Facebook/Zuckerberg/and Harvard co-founders hired an oversized and overpriced architectural firm from juicy NYC tells me everything I need to know about where Menlo Park intends to take city planning into the future. The trade off is we longterm residents are losing our well-tuned, accessible downtown family friendly neighborhoods, parks, and shops to big city developers and transient tenants.
How is building a prettier place to work (OMA builds primarily dressed up convention centers to distract locals from the ever popular commercialization of the convention itself) contribute to our community's sustainability? Menlo Park is just one small desirable bay area suburb known for excellent public schools, mom and pop shops, and close knit families going back three, four generations.

Environmental impact reports are alarming but MP city council members and Facebook see the cost of high density housing and gridlock traffic as a merely an inconvenience rather than the rebranding of what we recognize as our neighborhood. I want to know how Facebook's big city office campus will give back to our community? Because all I see is an isolated corporate campus looking to UP their Facebook LIKES while other people such as longtime local John Arrillaga who spends his resources reinvesting in our community for future generations to grow and thrive.

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