Corporate Community Building: When Companies Turn City Planners

In some respects, 21st century tech companies and 19th century industrialists like Rockefeller, Chrysler, or Pullman have quite a bit in common. Just like old-school tycoons, Google, Apple, Amazon et. al. know about the links between power, influence, and representation. A triad of clout that meshes – most impressively – in the design, location, and purpose of these companies’ new headquarters, be they high-rise symbols of power in the centers of a metropolis, like New York’s Chrysler Building, or sprawling networks of knowledge tucked away in bucolic suburbia, like Apple’s Silicon Valley campus.

Over the past couple of years, the sheer number of new HQs built by new media and tech companies, from Twitter to Google, has fueled and filled several architecture blogs – Dezeen even devoted a full-on Pinterest attack to the new hubs of power. Most of these impressive design homages to their respective corporate spirit, however, are still located on the outskirts of cities, often covering hundreds of acres of green. One of the major exceptions to this trend is Amazon: The company not only bought eleven existing buildings in the downtown Seattle neighborhood of South Lake Union, but also obtained a permit to develop an adjacent three-city-block area to erect its new headquarters.