Fresh off its IPO, Facebook made yet another big splash when it announced that it had tapped Pritzker Prize-winning "starchitect" Frank Gehry to design its west campus in Menlo Park, California. The 420,000-square-foot site will hold an open-floor building for some 2,800 engineers to work. Its roof will include a green park where employees and visitors can lounge, which will be accessible via ramps on the periphery of the campus.

"From the outside it will appear as if you're looking at a hill in nature," Mark Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook timeline in August.

Not everyone thinks the campus--which Facebook's environmental design manager compared to a warehouse--sounds so idyllic. Given Facebook's sinking stock price, some observers have questioned such a lavish expenditure. And Gehry's last foray into tech, MIT's Stata Center, was a notorious flop. Not only was the design panned, but MIT sued Gehry over it, claiming that its flaws had led to cracks, leakage, and mold in the building. The suit was settled in 2010. 

So what's the final verdict on Facebook's new campus? We've compiled a few reactions from around the Web, so you can decide.

Lagging Behind the Curve

"In terms of work environments, there's been more experimentation, more playing with the possibilities of space," opined Alison Arieff, the former editor-in-chief of Dwell, at the New York Times. "But the decidedly un-inventive office park paradigm has held on with a vengeance...Though Twitter and Facebook are both in the business of social media, Twitter seems to have opted for a headquarters strategy better equipped to avoid the seeming inevitable groupthink that a warehouse of tightly packed engineers might produce."

Proving Its Critics Wrong

"I imagine that somewhere in the minds of the Facebook executives who worked with Gehry on the plans is the idea that Facebook needs to cover up or combat this sense that it separates us from reality," Emily Chertoff wrote at the Atlantic. "A new building that presents itself as a non-invasive insertion into a pastoral landscape is a clever visual move. Facebook isn't sucking you into the screen; no, the company's holistically integrated with the natural and physical worlds."

Trying Too Hard to Grow Up

"Saying Gehry designs 'awesome' buildings is easy," Casey Chan argued at Gizmodo. "His designs are so different (from the norm, not each other) that they force you to comment. But the young and scrappy Facebook--the one who gave David Choe FB stock for tagging up its walls--probably wouldn't have done this (they couldn't have afforded it, first of all) because it's just so damn typical of a big public company trying to fake cool."

Embodying a Grand Vision

"If Gehry's past open-plan spaces are anything to go by, the Facebook space will be a 'microcosm of more ideal cities,' with vistas and gathering areas and private and contemplative spaces and different scales of 'street,' in which users feel 'safe,' and not alienated by their environment," wrote Frances Anderton, host of KCRW's DnA: Design and Architecture, at "If the role of architecture is to lift the human spirit, this is a sustainable model."

Published on: Oct 1, 2012