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The Facebook Roof Garden

by Kirsten Honeyman
photographs by Kirsten Honeyman

Photographs to illustrate the article published in The Mediterranean Garden No 85, July 2016.

Kirsten writes:
“Mark Zuckerberg was exploring his plans for a new Facebook Campus headquarters in Menlo Park when mutual acquaintances suggested he consider Frank O. Gehry as architect. Both parties were initially cautious about this proposition….. After several meetings, however, the two men found common ground for the building’s concept and became comfortable with one another personally. The 29-year-old entrepreneur decided to hire the 84-year-old icon. Key to their shared vision was Zuckerberg’s desire to create an office space consisting of “one big room” – a concept entirely simpatico with Gehry’s notion of the ideal workspace.”

This single workspace would be huge - 40,227 square metres – to avoid the building looking like a giant supermarket, Gehry decided was to hide the parking underneath and turn the entire roof of the building into a landscaped park.

Kirsten writes:
“Thus, the nine-acre (3.6 hectares) Facebook roof garden was born. Gehry conceived of the park as an aesthetic feature to be enjoyed by staff while working below at their desks as well as during rooftop forays. This was accomplished by perforating the roof with numerous skylights and dropping in three glass-walled sunken patios, allowing glimpses of greenery from within.  CMG Landscape Architecture of San Francisco created the garden design, with its emphasis on drought-tolerant California native and other climate-appropriate plants.
…. What started out as largely an aesthetic decision on Gehry’s part ended up providing many other benefits … The rooftop park offered the opportunity to increase the building’s sustainability profile greatly by reducing energy usage (the roof garden insulates from both heat and cold), capturing rainwater, and providing native habitat for resident and migrating birds, butterflies and other local fauna.

But one of the most important benefits of the garden may not have been clearly obvious at the onset. E. O. Wilson, the Pulitzer Prize-winning biologist, has long been interested in the relationship between human beings and the natural environment. Staff can go to the park to stroll, sit in contemplation or engage with one another in a relaxed fashion, all while taking in some sunlight, observing wildlife, and looking out over the San Francisco Bay and its surrounding landscape of salt flats and foothills. Based on an extensive review of the scientific research, Wilson asserts that exposure to just such a comforting natural environment facilitates creativity, encourages higher-order cognitive functioning, and promotes positive emotional states. Zuckerberg could not have chosen a more powerful way to boost creativity or foster a more positive work environment than to approve the rooftop garden design – well worth the additional construction costs it necessitated.”

An installation of redwood lath with salt flats in the distance,
a quiet place to meditate or converse

Special glass is used throughout the building to
prevent bird injuries

Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) and yarrow (Achillea millefolium),
colourful food for butterflies and bees

Numerous skylights allowing natural light into the office
space below, surrounded by plantings of California live oak
(Quercus agrifolia), red kangaroo paw (Anigozanthus rufus),
purple Verbena bonariensis, yellow Bulbine and euphorbia

Peaceful spot overlooking the salt flats, planted with a multi-trunked
Magnolia grandiflora, purple Penstemon ‘Sour Grapes’, yellow
Grindelia and grey-green mounds of Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’

Plastic contemplation structures created by 3D printer,
surrounded by red-orange California Fuchsia (Epilobium canum),
Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’ and yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
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