Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Ancien Régime 2.0

Apple's HQ (Rendering from the Economist 1843 Magazine)
Like some nouveau riche who distance themselves from their humble backgrounds, “Silicon Valley is having its Versailles moment”: [bold added]
The scale of the project rivals the ancient Egyptians’ monuments. Every piece of glass on the four-story exterior is curved, requiring special panes to be made in Germany – the largest pieces of curved glass ever manufactured. With a price tag of around $5 billion, [Apple's] may be the most expensive corporate headquarters in history. [snip]

Last year Facebook opened a new, 430,000-square-foot building in Menlo Park designed to embody the company’s informal culture. Resembling a giant warehouse, it is reputedly the largest open-plan office in the world. Meanwhile, Google is working on a zany idea for a new headquarters to replace its Googleplex, which involves constructing movable glass buildings. Other technology companies, including Nvidia, Samsung and Uber, will, collectively, spend well over $1 billion on new buildings that broadcast their success.
With world-changing innovations ever harder to invent, our latter-day Masters of the Universe are spending precious energy and enormous resources on building monuments to their grandeur. Let's hope that, like Versailles, 200 years after the monuments were built that tourists aren't the only beings on the grounds.
The truth is that individuals and institutions usually turn to architecture at moments of decline. This curious fact was pointed out years ago by Cyril Northcote Parkinson in his 1968 best seller, Parkinson's Law....Parkinson considered buildings as an important barometer of corporate health, but as a negative barometer. "During a period of exciting discovery or progress there is no time to plan the perfect headquarters," he wrote. "The time for that comes later, when all the important work has been done. Perfection, we know, is finality; and finality is death."

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