Nap pods and rooftop parks: how Silicon Valley is reinventing the office

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The rooftop park at Facebook’s HQ, designed by Frank Gehry
© Oliver Wainwright
The rooftop park at Facebook’s HQ, designed by Frank Gehry
© Oliver Wainwright

Tech giants Google, Samsung and Facebook are in a race to create the most elaborate workplace environments

From the fifth-floor putting green of Samsung’s Silicon Valley headquarters, looking out at a rolling horizon of sun-scorched mountains, it’s quite easy to forget you’re at work. An executive is practising tai chi by the cactus garden, while another jiggles in a robotic massage chair nearby. A volleyball match is in full swing in the lush-planted courtyard below, while raucous shrieks of table football emerge from the Chill Zone, next to a row of space-age nap pods. “Meet by the ping-pong tables,” reads a sign stuck on the window. “Today’s spinning class will be on the terrace! :)”

With its new $300m office block, which stands like a stack of gleaming white hard drives at an intersection north of San Jose, the South Korean electronics giant is plunging headlong into the holiday camp workplace culture of the Bay Area tech scene.

“We wanted to introduce more of a startup vibe to the company,” says Jim Elliott, Samsung’s vice-president of memory marketing, a job title as otherworldly as the building he works in. “We were all separated in our different departmental islands before, but this building is about bringing people together and encouraging chance encounters. We want to get people out of the boardroom.”

Samsung has had a base here for 30 years, housed in a cluster of nondescript sheds, but this 10-storey beacon is designed to shift its brand image in North America from purveyor of fridges and washing machines to powerhouse of cutting-edge semiconductor innovation. […]

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