Posted by Tom Foremski - June 9, 2011
Silicon Valley looks pretty much the same today as it did when I first arrived in 1984 - it looks like a business park. Except for the names of the companies it looks like any business park in the world.
There is no "culture" as you see in cities in the form of architecture and cultural institutions. The Computer History Museum, for example, is a relatively new institution.
Sramana Mitra writing in Silicon Valley: The Next Decade (Part 1) makes a good case for Silicon Valley adopting a "Renaissance Mind" and drawing inspiration from 14th century Florence. The wealthy merchants spent fortunes on the arts, becoming patrons to the most famous artists and architects of their age.
But there's nothing like that in Silicon Valley despite the massive amounts of wealth created here.
Ms Mitra writes:
I have spoken with art gallery owners who have complained that Silicon Valley's elite lack taste and do not buy art. If you look around, you'll see that they don't care very much about fashion or elegance, either.
The nightlife or entertainment venues are limited in scope and quality. Theaters, museums, concerts - everything operates timidly, meekly, with uninspiring social consequence in that they don't move people, or move society forward as art can so often do. Even restaurants lack in sophistication, if you compare them with those in San Francisco or Napa.
And the architecture of the Valley is positively pathetic. The old ranch-style houses and fake French chateaux or Tuscan villas are impressive in size, but not in any other way. No boundaries are pushed; there is no real achievement in the domain of architecture.
I agree. But in the domain of architecture, Steve Jobs at Apple is certainly trying to raise the bar. The plans for Apple's new HQ are stunning:
It's mostly made from curved glass panes. Therese Poletti, columnist at MarketWatch writes that it will become a Valley icon.
There are not many structures in Silicon Valley -- with the possible exception of Oracle Inc.'s series of cylindrical glass towers that reference either databases or hard disk drives in Redwood City, Calif. -- that evoke the area's technological prowess.
She points out that with this project Steve Jobs will be able to recover from:
the wrath of architectural preservationists for his destruction of his home in the leafy hamlet of Woodside, a mansion designed by George Washington Smith, the father of the Spanish Colonial revival style, the Apple spaceship campus will likely be heralded by the architectural community as radical.
I wonder if anybody else in Silicon Valley will step up to some "Renaissance" thinking?