ANWF: The Spatial Evolution of Work and Living


31 Aug, 2023

Introduction to ‘A New Way Forward’…

In the heart of Mountain View, California, a daily ritual unfolds as the sun rises, carrying over 1,200 individuals to the towering offices of Google. From as far as Concord in the northeast and Santa Cruz in the south, employees embark on their journey to the Googleplex, their employer's sprawling hub of innovation. A complex logistics network, orchestrated by a modest team of transportation specialists, weaves a tapestry of routes to ensure a seamless commute. This interconnected web of transit, symbolised by the iconic Google Shuttlebus, goes beyond a mere transportation service. It weaves together the lives of employees, their homes, and the city itself, giving rise to a new form of company town.

The Google Shuttlebus embodies what Columbia University's Architectural Historian, Kazys Varnelis, terms "network culture" - a cultural logic focused on distributed effects. Through software packages and a global reach, corporations like Google have revolutionised the nature of work. Yet, as this network culture extends its influence, traditional professions such as architecture have faced disruption and loss of jobs. The advent of disruptive technologies and the entrepreneurial spirit of the creative class have reshaped the very foundations of our professional practices.

Our journey takes us beyond the confines of Mountain View as we seek to understand the implications of this networked landscape. The scope of this discussion extends to five key sites, each a significant milestone in the evolution of company towns:

1. The Factory Town - Lowell, Massachusetts
2. The Company Town - Pullman, Chicago
3. Exurban Company Estate - Yorktown, New York (IBM)
4. The Campus Model - Mountain View, California (Google)
5. The Bottom-Up Model - Las Vegas, Nevada (Zappos and The Downtown Project)
6. Quicken Investments - Detroit, Michigan (Quicken Investments)
7. The Endless Model - Palo Alto, California (Facebook)

Each city we discuss represents a unique chapter in the entwined history of architecture, corporate culture, policy and political structures. From the rise of factory towns during the industrial revolution to the modern-day campuses and endless models, we will examine the impact of these developments on the nature of work, urbanism and society at large.

In this series, we endeavour to understand companies’ roles in an ever-changing economy. How can companies adapt to this new network culture and forge a new way forward? As the lines blur between the home and office park, we seek to grapple with the historical processes that shape the typological nature of work in our society.

Join us as we explore the past, present and potential future, to shed light on the forces that have reshaped the way we work and live and begin a journey towards discovering A New Way Forward.