Adaptive Re-use of 1980’s Corporate Campus in Silicon Valley by WRNS Studio and SWA Group Injects Urban Energy into Heart of Suburbia

Image courtesy of SWA Group

Mountain View, CA (March 2, 2022) – Located on a seventeen-acre campus one mile from the City of Mountain View’s downtown core and one mile from public transit, Evelyn Avenue Workplace needed not only a facelift, but a systemic re-think of its campus plan that addressed both existing structures and the need for new buildings to support growth.

Rockwood Capital commissioned WRNS Studio and SWA Group to lead the adaptive re-use of a typical 1980’s concrete tilt-up campus in Mountain View, consisting of five hermetically-sealed, ziggurat-shaped buildings hemmed in by decorative landscape and parking lots. WRNS Studio together with landscape architecture firm SWA Group responded with a master plan of adaptive re-use, and new construction that takes cues from the City’s urban grid while weaving in a fine grain of materials, site circulation, social spaces, and thoughtful landscape. The result is a walkable, authentic sense of place defined by streets, alleys, plazas, and a hierarchy of spatial experiences one might encounter in urban areas. Re-use and modernization of the five existing structures reduces the campus’s carbon footprint by replacing outdated mechanical, electrical, and lighting systems with new energy-efficient systems.

Overlaying downtown Mountain View’s street grid over the irregularly shaped existing site plan revealed opportunities to create a strong pedestrian circulation backbone, or a central street, supported by a network of enhanced pedestrian connections.  Main access points were reoriented to this newly activated central street, and lined with a variety of differently-scaled and well-shaded amenities and outdoor gathering spaces. Walkways, canopies, extensive terraces, and a new grandstand square off the ziggurat-shaped buildings and pull the workplace outdoors, further adding to dynamism along the central street. Additionally, the new design triples the tree canopy and requires 75% less irrigation than what were formerly lawns.

Connecting the campus’s main hub building to the site’s busiest street, Evelyn Avenue, a large pedestrian entry plaza transforms a former parking lot into the largest gathering space on campus. The plaza’s copper trellis extends towards Evelyn Avenue, holding the street edge with a civic-scaled element that invites the community into the site. A new 125,000 sq. ft. office building, located on the western edge of campus, acts as the terminus to the central street and frames a new secondary plaza with visual connections to the campus. All buildings, old and new, are defined by large openings that strengthen circulation while creating fluid indoor/outdoor workplace environments. This strategy enhances indoor air quality and supports energy efficient strategies such as exterior shading and natural ventilation, not typically found in office environments. A 5-story parking garage serves as the campus’s backdrop, consolidates surface parking and reduces the parking ratio while buffering the campus from State Route 237. The proposed structure will be topped with a large canopy of photovoltaic arrays that will provide power to the new building.

The site has been transformed from its “before” condition of decorative hedges, lawns and twisting concrete pathways to a fully programmed outdoor campus. Paved paths that once prescribed and limited site access have been replaced with a designed environment that is meant to encourage gathering, engagement, and collaboration. A common material palette featuring warm anodized copper is deployed in different ways across each of the buildings to help knit them together while creating an authentic and human-scale sense of place.

Home to Google, Microsoft, Intuit, and many others driving the innovation sector, the City of Mountain View represents both the origins and future of Silicon Valley. The City is now in the bullseye of a “big workplace re-think” as tech innovators and private developers compete for employees with an array of head-turning new campuses. While varied in architectural responses, these campuses share a commitment to environmental stewardship, a focus on employee well-being, and the desire to take cues from thriving cities and downtowns.