A career consulting with Big Corporations has exposed me to a dizzying number of suburban corporate campuses around the world. Louise Mozingo’s Pastoral Capitalism (well described by the author here) offers a dispassionate survey of the rise of the dominant architectural form.
That dispassion highlights for me, by stark contrast, how much I despise these sprawling complexes. With many, the original university mimicry has been long forgotten in favor of more surface parking. The more recent or well-to-do firms usually have lovely places to stroll around, though, that provide a stark contrast to the cubicle farms surrounding them.
The best examples, such as Microsoft’s, are genuinely pleasant to stroll around. But when you board a bus or train from the middle of a thriving urban neighborhood, leave the city, and exit to take a long walk past parking garages to enter, it’s hard to suspend disbelief and forget you are in a machine with a single master. I’ve yet to see one large enough to support a diversity of lunch options to maintain any illusion of social integration for more than a week, either. Apple’s new spaceship looks like it will be lovely, and Facebook’s captive housing will support more diversity of space, but even a beautiful factory reminds you of your place.
I do hope everyone is paying attention to what Amazon is doing in Seattle. The management needs of Mozingo’s three forces are unlikely to change, but the decentralization of cities is damaging to culture and environment so I hope our corporate overlords will stop reinforcing the pastoral. Or at least integrate some farming so our cows can walk, too.