Bay Area Branding

Anyone who has been following the Raxa Collective blog would likely be aware that natural beauty trumps man-made wonders for us, hands down.  Because of that, rather than in spite of it, we have also been sensitive to built space because we live and work in it every day, and welcome travelers to such places.  Paying tribute to design, as we like to do from time to time, we recommend this item on Atlantic’s website about a new landmark building in the Bay Area and the ideas it represents (worth reading in full; excerpted here are the early and closing lines):

…The heart of the development is a ten-story tower that the company’s architect, NBBJ, says “will create a powerful brand image for Samsung.”

I got curious, though. What, precisely, did the building say about Samsung, a company that can compete with Intel with one hand and Apple with the other? So, I sent six renderings of the new building to some architecture critics to see what they had to say. I did not tell them the name of the company or architect; they were flying/critiquing blind. (And while I waited for them to respond, I brushed up on my Samsung history; you can skip ahead if you’re familiar with the company’s rise.)…

…Manaugh allllmost calls the building the mullet of corporate headquarters: business in the front, party in the back.

“The images also say that they’re serious and competitive on the outside (see the modern, gridded, rectilinear building envelope), but, around the corner, if you’re willing to walk out back here with us, you can check out our oddly shaped long tail where you’ll get lost in the free geometry and casual landscaping, and you can dwell for a while and have a coffee” he wrote to me. “Meanwhile, if you are lucky enough to work here — or to be invited here for a meeting — you will experience our quirky interior courtyard carved out of the floor plate, indicating that we’re more fun and less formal than the public image we first deliberately greeted you with.”

What makes the building interesting as a Samsung emblem is that this is an inversion of the stereotypical Valley attitude. The vibe is supposed to be casual on the outside, but serious and competitive on the inside: sharks in flip-flops, vampires in jeans, eggheads in t-shirts. Samsung inverts this norm, playing off the besuited Asian business stereotype, while not quite pretending to the affable, work-life balance hang-looseism of a Facebook. This is a work space, even as it concedes that it must look Silicon Valley — which is to say, “innovative” — enough. Maybe call it Minimum-Viable Valley Architecture.

Read the whole article here.

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