Continuing on from my seminal visit to Google and the Computer History Museum yesterday, my tour of Silicon Valley today has taken me to the headquarters of yet another Internet behemoth, Facebook.
Facebook is located at Menlo Park, a bit further north from Mountain View, not far south of San Francisco. Facebook buildings are split into several different precincts, the main feature being the brand new Facebook HQ which was opened in April last year. The “classic” (formerly Sun Microsystems HQ) compound remains heavy utilized on the opposite side of the freeway.
Aerial View (unfortunately out of date) courtesy Google Maps
Our visit this morning began with us parking under the huge new building complex and entering at Lobby 4. At ground level, there’s not much to see and it’s all about business, with a bank of iPads used for signing in purposes.
Once registered in the system, it was a brisk walk upstairs to a second lobby where we waited for our escort. The building is unmistakably industrial-themed, but splashed with an array of differentiating features such as lines of extreme colour and graffiti style comments on the beams and walls.
Heading inside, the first thing we encountered was the incredibly impressive scale model of the building. It runs the length of a massive table and contains an amazing amount of detail. It helpfully illustrated the sheer immense size of the structure, although we really did not truly appreciate the mastery of the design until later on.
One thing which is impossible to ignore straight away is just how huge the building is. Stripped of the traditional finishing most office complexes have, the ceiling towers above everyone which creates an amazing sense of space. The entire building is essentially one long huge open planned office, although it is clear from the number of strategically positioned portable whiteboards, not everyone’s so keen on the foot traffic and noise of passers by.
We walked south for a fair while, passing many differently sized work areas and meeting rooms. There is a touch of individuality throughout from the distinctive fonts adorning the sides of enclaves, to the creatively named meeting rooms – examples of which are ‘A Clockwork Orange is the New Black’, ‘Gerald Fortran’, ‘Modern Family Guy’, ‘Back to the Futurama’ and more.
There was even a device kiosk which could be used to test out a range of software and a Facebook vending machine, supplying staff with an array of IT accessories to help when in need (e.g. batteries, phone batteries, charging cables etc.).
Our first stop was breakfast. Facebook, as you’d expect for Silicon Valley, caters to staff by providing a substantial cafeteria (“Full Circle”) fully stocked with food options. The spacious area easily would accommodate most of the staff working in the building, with room to spare for transients, such as myself.
We opted for an outside table, to take in the view and enjoy the beautiful sunny Californian weather. After a robust breakfast conversation, we bussed out trays and then ascended to the roof of the building.
Here’s where the jaw dropping aspect kicks in.
The entire surface of the roof of the building has been utilized, and it’s amazing. The roof has been designed to withstand the weight of gravel, dirt and sand as well as a large array of trees, shrubs and an entire green lawn. It is an engineering feat which I’ve never seen before, and it runs the entire length of the building.
Unfortunately, the photos do not do justice to the grandness of this design. Facebook has created a sort of Garden of Eden above Facebook HQ and it is astoundingly impressive. There are deck chairs and lounges strewn around for people to enjoy, and it even features a juice bar so people can quench their thirst while admiring the far reaching views across the bay and mountains.
After further discussions whilst admiring the views and enjoying freshly blended juice (themed appropriately for Independence Day) we descended down to ground level and waited for the Gold Tram to arrive and whisk us off to the “classic” buildings across the freeway.
Continued shortly in Part 2.