Monday, March 11, 2013

The Hubris of Campus

Futurist Mike Walsh says Apple's proposed campus reflects an
"old way of looking at things," according to a recent story in The Registry.
Recent unveilings of new corporate campuses planned for Google, Samsung and NVIDIA, reminded me of Mike Walsh’s comments (reported last fall in the Registry). Mr. Walsh, chief executive of Tomorrow, a global consultancy, in proclaiming that the “future of work is not a building, it’s an ecosystem,” was calling out the corporate hubris of the
proposed Apple campus and the general misalignment of the campus model with the future of work.

Compare Apple’s huge investment with other technology darlings’ decision to expand their presence in cities. Salesforce, Twitter, AirBnB, Zynga and many others consider San Francisco’s urban environment to be an advantage when recruiting or keeping talent. The much touted Forest City development, 5M, hopes to build (literally) on this trend with a refreshingly innovative project that translates “campus” into an urban setting. But is the corporate campus really so obsolete?

Obviously, there is still a need and use for campus settings. Universities, convents, and artists residencies have long taught us the benefits of a sequestered and custom-built environment for the pursuit of a common purpose or goal. And Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer certainly made clear her stance on the value of running into colleagues while eating, running or picking up dry cleaning, as well as working under one roof. Translated into commerce, these concepts have yielded a few amazing architectural settings, and unfortunately, a good bit of sprawl.

Encouragingly, some new developments are pointing to a different role corporate campuses can play. In the United Kingdom, building owners and developers are beginning to curate these settings to encourage community activity among a variety of tenants, basically blending the security of a single corporate-owned (or inhabited) structure with the benefits of urban diversity and delight,  spurring unusual partnerships and innovative thinking. In Asia, a different scenario is playing out. There new office parks serve as a boundary for infrastructure upgrades and yes, security. 

Looking at suburban office buildings through a new lens of today’s technology, work practice and employee behavior is most definitely a good thing. But also considering a campus’ potential to benefit from engaging its community might be even better.

- Bryant Rice


About the Author:
Bryant Rice, Vice President of Strategic Accounts, is our Workplace Warrior. He deals out strategy, perspective, and opinions. Bryant brings over 30 years of experience to SideMark as an architect, planner, workplace strategist, facilities manager and furniture manufacturer. Bryant holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Architecture from the Georgia Institute of Technology as well as a MArch and MBA in Architecture and Business Administration from the University of Illinois. To contact Bryant, email him at

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