Superficial Campus

Designer: Weishun Xu, Christopher Esper
Critic: Patrik Schumacher, Marc Fornes
Year: 2013
Location: San Jose, CA, USA
Project Type: Headquarter

Fabric Model Pic


Project Brief

     With the development of Internet, working on-site seems rather unnecessary in the future. However, face-to-face interaction does generate results and productivity that are far beyond the reach of technology now. Transforming Google campus means that the designer should fully recognize its potential of enabling off-site working conditions, and plan accordingly for maximized possibilities for free-flow, face-to-face encounters and interactions.

Thus, an open-plan mat building is proposed. However, the existing structure with large span spaces and shell structures mostly enable two-dimensional movements across the same floor, and rarely free movement across floors. Hence, the challenge of this design proposal is to explore and present the possibility of a complex aggregate of working spaces made with (conceptually) a single surface, on which the two dimensional movement can topologically cross the floor structure and reach every corner of the building.

Site Aerial View

Test on Fabric Units: Models and Simulation

     It is conceived that the aggregated working condition will be composed by variations of a single unit which involves both vertical and horizontal movement. Hence, an open column formed by two pseudo parallel surfaces is chosen as the starting point to be tested and distorted. Different fabric types are employed for form finding and material performance.

A digital simulation process is taken in order to perform precise control over the formal reaction to different forces. Unit-spaces for individuals and structural concerns are the driving factors behind the variations.

Module Test


     Unit conditions are expanded to field simulation in order to explore interaction between different unit/force types, in an attempt to find walkable surfaces. A physical model is then introduced to prove the simulation – because of the computation capacity restriction, the physical model has a finer grain to explore the relationship between surface opening and driving forces.

Program density is the driving force of local FAR in a campus, and due to the free-flow mat-building agenda, sectional relationships should be adjusted based on required number of floors for each program. 3 major prototypical sectional units are chosen to mitigate boundary conditions between areas of different density.

Section 1

Semiological implementation on Structure and Furniture

     Digital simulation generates a corresponding form that appears to be homogeneous in its representation. However, in its actual physical performance, the form gives much hint on how to implement and enhance diverse spatial performance based on structural analysis as well as designated programs. To move beyond the interpretation of a singular membrane in a computer model, material thickness and opening are generated through structural analysis of the stretched mesh, tracing major load areas. Surface normal were taken into consideration in order to control the difference between walkable surfaces and “vertical” partitions.

Skin 1 skin 2 Section 2

The detailed program allocation at furniture-scale follows formal potentials generated by unit deformation and overall allocation. Using the same module that constitutes the large-scale mesh, the furniture design seeks formal correspondence with the overall scheme, and is structurally enabled by the deformation of the global geometry.





Site Strategy

     To distribute the units in the site, urban entrances are mapped to simulate path conditions based on connectivity, and figure-field reversal method is used to locate working aggregates. Boundary condition and density grading then determines locations for internal public spaces and openings such as gardens and exhibition halls.

Site Site 1 Site2ren2