Silicon Valley is having an architectural breakthrough

For all the technological breakthroughs it has produced, Silicon Valley is an architectural wasteland.

Rather than complementing the lush rolling hills to the west and the expansive San Francisco Bay to the east, this high-tech hub has produced an unending line of dreary office parks full of two-story, cubicle-lined buildings whose main visual goal is to escape notice.

Yet amid this backdrop of bland, Silicon Valley is suddenly showing signs of architectural life. The latest evidence came last month when Nvidia Corp. of Santa Clara and then Google Inc. of Mountain View unveiled plans for elaborate new campuses.

Google’s new complex, dubbed Bay View, would be a series of bent, rectangular buildings connected by bridges arranged around courtyards and topped with green roofs. Nvidia’s campus would sport a space-age look with a pair of triangle-shaped buildings with geodesic roofs that mimic the miniature triangles used in computer graphic chips.

“The new Nvidia building will capture the ambition and imagination of our people,” said Jen-Hsun Huang, co-founder and chief executive of the computer chip maker. “It will stand at the intersection of science and art, just as our work in visual computing does. It will be the symbol, the physical manifestation, of our vision for the company…. You’ll see how it fuses together smart design, craftsmanship, and soul.”

Art? Soul? In Silicon Valley?

Believe it. Google and Nvidia are just the latest distinctive office designs that have been announced for the region. The most buzzed-about has been Apple Inc.’s spaceship-like campus in Cupertino. In Menlo Park, Facebook Inc. hired architect Frank Gehry to design its expansion.

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