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Architects for Silicon Valley Westbank Campus

Laura Puttkamer

A group of architecture studios will jointly realise the Westbank Campus in Silicon Valley.

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What do Kengo Kuma, Bjarke Ingels Group, James K.M. Cheng Architects, WRNS studio and Studio Gang have in common? They are jointly realising the Westbank Campus in Silicon Valley for the Canadian project developer Westbank. Read all about the project here.

The Silicon Valley Westbank Campus in San José

The Californian Silicon Valley in San José is mostly known for its innovative inventions and start-ups. Now, a group of architecture studios wants to expand the area’s reputation into sustainable construction: The Westbank Campus projects will be a new living and working complex built with timber and also focusing on sustainable ways of construction.

Canadian developer Westbank is aiming to transform San José. Until now, the Silicon Valley city has hosted technology centres that are not particularly sustainable in terms of their ecological footprint. At the same time, housing is in high demand in the area. There is also a need for more community and neighbourhood. Together with Kengo Kuma, Bjarke Ingels Group, James K.M. Cheng Architects, WRNS studio and Studio Gang, Westbank intends to meet this demand through sustainable, future-oriented architecture.

Each of the participating studios will focus on a different aspect of the Westbank Campus development. Studio Gang’s timber tower “Arbor” at the centre of the Silicon Valley Westbank Campus symbolises the workplace of the future, showing how a typical workplace can contribute to a rich ecosystem and to fighting climate change through sustainable construction.

Arbor by Studio Gang

About 30 percent of the world’s CO2 emissions stem from the construction sector. While it is not possible to tear down existing buildings (not even in Silicon Valley), the Westbank Campus project is creating bridges between the old and the new. The old, in this case, is the 1984 Davidson Building, which will be renovated and repurposed. The new is the “Arbor” timber tower. Two bridges will literally connect these buildings.

Arbor will also centre on nature in the built environment. All around the building, there will be green spaces for recreation, work, and community. Natural light, fresh air and environmental-friendly materials will bring nature to Silicon Valley.

The choice of timber for the Silicon Valley Westbank Campus flagship building is pioneering. Timber has an ecological footprint 35 percent lower than conventional materials such as concrete and steel. Additionally, the building’s grid-like structure will offer space for plants to filter the air and regulate temperature inside the flats.

According to developers, the Westbank Campus will contribute to the strengthening of Silicon Valley as a future-oriented place where not just innovative projects, but also life itself are at the centre of everything.

Park Habitat by Kengo Kuma

In addition, Kengo Kuma and Associates designed the “Park Habitat” as a hybrid green space with living and working environments as part of the Silicon Valley Westbank. Their vision consists of an engaging public realm, a green lung, several nature pockets and a combined office-and-flat-building with a responsive façade and a rooftop park.

The architects aim to address the urgent need in Silicon Valley to provide residential and office spaces that embrace nature. A mossy tree trunk and its organic condition of overgrowth inspired their design. Moreover, the office spaces align with pockets of green space and are configured to allow for optimum views, light, orientation, and function. The sun, its shifting lights, and different volumes of light shape all aspects of the complex.

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Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), Energy Hub, Westbank Campus Silicon Valley, Visualisation: Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG)
Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), Energy Hub, Westbank Campus Silicon Valley, Visualisations: Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG)
Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), Energy Hub, Westbank Campus Silicon Valley, Visualisation: Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG)

Bank of Italy and Energy Hub by Bjarke Ingels Group

In partnership with Westbank, the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) will revitalise San José’s iconic Bank of Italy Tower. This building is 95 years old and historically protected. The interior has been demolished already. It is set to become a new destination in San José with retail, education, a cultural club, and workspaces. The theme of BIG’s design is adaptive reuse: While expressing the heritage of the building, they are also adapting it to contemporary ideas of living and working.

The reuse of foundation, structure, cladding and roofing of the existing building will save 6,000 metric tons of CO2. Many harmful effects of the construction process will be sidestepped. New workspaces with vegetated, cantilevering designs will be added to the exterior. Overall, BIG is hoping to introduce a vibrant new sense of community around the historic building.

In addition, the group will construct an energy hub for the Silicon Valley Westbank Campus. This hub will be in the heritage district between the residential and the commercial area. It is designed to be a “porous, engaging mixed-use public realm” with pedestrian access at street level. Retail at street level, residential units in the “legs” of the structure and denser workspaces in the upper half will result in a dynamic hub.

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Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), Energy Hub, Westbank Campus Silicon Valley, Visualisation: Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG)
Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), Energy Hub, Westbank Campus Silicon Valley, Visualisations: Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG)
Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), Energy Hub, Westbank Campus Silicon Valley, Visualisation: Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG)

The Orchard Urban Campus on the Silicon Valley Westbank Campus

Furthermore, the Westbank Campus in San José will have a new commercial and residential centre, the Orchard Urban Campus. James K.M. Cheng Architects will build a residential tower, the “Orchard Residences”, that are designed to respect and celebrate the roof of the existing Bo Town Restaurant. Sustainable rooftops and energy capture are part of both sites. Also, the vertical orchard will be part of the urban site to celebrate the agricultural heritage of the area. This orchard will not only fully replace the land taken over by the development, but also contribute to agricultural production for Silicon Valley Westbank Campus.

WRNS studio collaborates closely with James K.M. Cheng Architects to create the workspace component at Orchard Urban Campus. This will consist of two towers, connected by a podium, a street level market, and a food court. Also, large open-floor workspaces and amenities will be located on top of the ground floor retail. Public events can take place at the podium’s rooftop in the sense of an urban theatre.

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