US firm NBBJ has created the largest office in North America for tech company Samsung, incorporating features intended to show how a "legacy brand can play on par with the most-nimble tech startups" (+ slideshow).
Located in San Jose – a large city in California's Silicon Valley – the Samsung America Headquarters encompasses 1.1 million square feet (102,190 square metres). It houses the company's US semiconductor division.
The office campus features a 10-storey building wrapped in a glass and white metal panels. The building appears as three stacked slabs sitting atop a glass podium, with large openings between each volume.
The design references the wafer-like composition of a microchip. The building is "split horizontally into three 'wafers' of office," the firm explained. The openings contain open-air terraces and amenity spaces.
"These garden floors offer breaks away from the office environment, where employees can socialise, relax and meditate while surrounded by nature and sprawling views," said NBBJ.
The architect carved away the centre of the building, creating a sculptural lightwell with a courtyard at ground level and glazed walls.
A walkway in the courtyard leads to an adjacent parking garage and a wood-clad volume that houses a cafeteria.
"This campus marks Samsung's largest and most prominent development in North America," the firm said, adding that the project "ushers in a modern paradigm for the company".
The design team set out to create a facility that would enable Samsung – founded in South Korea in 1938 – to attract top talent.
"Competition for recruitment is fierce in Silicon Valley, and today's tech workers often value vibrant urban experiences," the firm said.
"With its diverse workspaces and exciting amenities, the campus expresses Samsung's identity as a legacy brand that can play on par with the most nimble tech startups."
Programmatically, the building is divided into two zones: one for sales, and the other for research and development.
To create a feeling of openness, the firm incorporated double-height spaces, floor-to-ceiling windows and sight lines to the courtyard.
Three gradients of glazing were used to mitigate solar heat gain while optimising the amount of natural light entering the facility.
"Our team employed computer modelling using data on sun paths and internal functions to optimise daylight design, as natural light boosts productivity and overall satisfaction," the firm said.
A variety of working spaces cater to the diverse needs of employees. In addition to designated office zones, staff members can work in outdoor areas or in laboratories located along the edges of the facility.
"In our research, we found that while many workers want an energetic environment, others are happier in more focused spaces," the firm said. "So we designed a gradient of spaces from active to quiet, inside and out."
The cafeteria was placed away from offices to encourage physical activity and trips outside.
The firm also incorporated amenities that include a fitness centre, nap pods and music listening rooms with coloured lighting, to ensure "people can find happiness and recharge at work".
"You'll also find a Chill Zone with foosball tables, games, flat-screen televisions and comfortable seating," the firm added.
However, the Google-inspired fad for these types of fun elements in offices has had a damaging impact on the workplace, according to expert Jeremy Myerson.
Samsung's corporate campus is the first in San Jose to utilise the city's new urban design principles, which call for taller buildings, street-front developments and commercial spaces to "activate the pedestrian realm".
"NBBJ worked with Samsung and the city of San Jose to eschew the traditional isolated tech campus for a model that is connected, transit-oriented, sustainable and community-driven," the firm said.
Other projects in Silicon Valley include a Google headquarters by BIG and Heatherwick Studio and a plan by architect Rafael Viñoly to convert an ageing shopping centre into a vast development featuring the world's largest roof garden. Last year, Facebook moved into its new Silicon Valley campus designed by Frank Gehry.