SANTA CLARA: JUST OFF the San Tomas Expressway, nestled beside Saratoga Creek, is a construction site. Up to now, it hasn't looked like much more than that, but in a UK first yesterday, we were invited to take a look around Nvidia's visionary new campus. Be careful, you will get muddy.
The on-again-off-again campus project is now very much back on again, with older, more anonymous looking buildings on the 3500 square foot site being demolished to make way for a space age looking blob with a living, breathing heart at its centre.
OK, so perhaps that's a rather extended metaphor, but in reality the "heart" will form a collaborative space that will be the first thing that users enter in the morning and the last thing they leave at night.
The building has been designed so that rather than come through the front door, the 2,000 or so workers that will be based here will come up from the underground parking garage and into the middle of the building, increasing the chances of cross-pollwith other team members instead of being stuck in silos of the same colleagues day in and day out.
As Satre pointed out "hell is other people", so don't worry, there are cubicles too, but the vision behind the project was to get away from the traditional anonymous low-rise offices of Silicon Valley and build something a bit more creative.
Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang has been hands-on with the concept behind the two story structure, but one of the biggest stars has been the company's own graphical rendering and virtual reality (VR) technology.
By viewing the site in VR as it was designed, the team has been able to overcome problems that could have derailed the effectiveness of the end result, citing the example of a huge pillar that could have blocked the view when arriving in reception.
It was only 3D rendering that made the problem apparent in a way that just wasn't spotted in 2D.
Additionally, it allowed renders to choose the optimum size, position and angle of each and every skylight to ensure that as far as possible, the building will take full advantage of the California sunshine and save on energy.
The Heart, like it's namesake TARDIS, benefits from a huge shaft of light in its centre, though sadly it was covered in scaffolding, so you'll have to take our word for it.
The environment is meant to encourage playing hard as well as working hard. Above the cafeteria will be giant screens facing out on to stadium-style seating, so staff can watch the ball game, movies or So You Think You Can Dance together (depending on where the demand is).
For the boffins, the environment will allow them to have a workbench and a cubicle adjacent, so they can keep an eye on their research whilst keeping up to date with paperwork. It's one of the more experimental ideas and will initially be subject to a limited rollout, but if it works it could be
It also acts as one of several meeting points where Jensen can appear virtually at the helm of company meetings without the need for a space to house all 5,000 workers.
There's only one slight problem with all this, and that's one of Nvidia's more pleasant problems. It continues to grow too fast, and that figure of 5,000 is far in excess of the maximum occupancy of 2,300, give or take.
So for the moment, while the new building is a bold design that will make for a fine head office, it's not the solution to all the bums-on-seats for the growing company.
Five older buildings were razed to make room for the site, but it represents only a third of the campus which is still littered with older labs and offices.
When the opening, planned for November has been and gone, the next task will be to assess the success of the project and look to Phase 2, with the possibility of a sister building, perhaps two.
In the meantime, there are collaborative spaces in amongst the landscaping too, so people will be able to come together and create tomorrow's tech outside the building as well as inside. µ
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