Tech giants building massive new headquarters

May 24, 2013, 3:35 PM EDT
A television crew prepares for a broadcast in front of a 'like' sign outside Facebook headquarters May 18, 2012 in Menlo Park, California.
Getty Images/Stephen Lam

The four horsemen of the Internet - Google, Amazon, Apple, and Facebook - are all working on very lavish new headquarters buildings in Silicon Valley and on the West Coast in Seattle, and they want to make a statement both of how far they've come and also where they think they're going.

Google already has a sprawling campus in Mountain View, which is right smack bang in the middle of Silicon Valley, and they are building a new one which is closer to the San Francisco bay, which they call Bay View.

It is designed specifically that all their clever software engineers are no more than about a two-and-a-half minute walk away from each other. And the idea with that is that you want to collaborate more, you want to share more ideas, and you want to be walking around.

Amazon is building a very large new headquarters in Seattle, and the latest designs that came out this week include these three large glass and steel "bio-domes," and these are going to have full, mature trees inside them.

Facebook bought the old campus of Sun Microsystems. But now they're actually expanding to an area quite close to there and they're calling it Facebook West. And Frank Gehry, the very famous architect, he's designing it.

And he initially designed it with some giant wing-like structures on it, and Facebook asked him to calm it down a little bit, so they are very sensitive to the idea that they don't want to build something too ostentatious.

So this one is going to be like a, basically a massive warehouse that's very, very open, and can be changed and configured as Facebook needs. And it's also going to have a lot of living gardens and other sort or trees and grassy areas on top of it. So that it blends in with the surrounding countryside.

Apple's new headquarters is being compared to a giant space ship, and indeed, Steve Jobs, before he died, described it that way.

"We've come up with a design that puts twelve thousand people in one building. It's a little like a spaceship landed. But there it is."

And this is going to be surrounded by a lot of trees, and again, the parking area with a lot of these new campuses is going to be buried underground. So there aren't going to be any cars that can be seen in the area.

There's quite a long history of very big companies building lavish headquarters and then struggling after they built them.

The AOL-Time Warner Center, back in 2000, was built in New York, and then AOL and Time Warner ended up being broken up and there was a lot of value destroyed there.

In Silicon Valley it's really raising the profile of these companies and it really is a sign that they're very confident that one, the Internet has really come of age, and two, they're really going to be around for a long time.