Uber recently released renderings of its new Mission Bay campus in San Francisco. Designed by New York-based SHoP Architects and local Studio O+A, the glassy, two-building project reflects the company’s share-economy aspirations to engage with the general public.
At 423,000 square feet divided between two addresses along Third Street—an 11-story tower and a 6-story building—the headquarters mirrors the fast-growing company’s ambitious nature. It is reported that Uber and venture partner Alexandria Real Estate Equities purchased the land last year for $125 million. When complete, the buildings will house upward of 4,000 employees.
Eyebrows were raised in March when the real estate blog SocketSite published a leaked Gensler rendering of a proposed building on the Mission Bay sites. That image, which was accompanied by a story about a dust-up between the architecture firm and the tech company, depicted a composition of two glass boxes connected on top by a third block—a seemingly larger massing than the scheme presented by SHoP and Studio O+A. Additionally, the earlier buildings’ street engagement at the ground floor was decidedly undeveloped.
By contrast, the recent design is sensitive to pedestrians and the quickly developing neighborhood. New renderings show a ground level facade pulled back from the curb to create retail, dining, and landscaped areas. The project will also include street-level amenities on the pedestrian throughway Pierpoint Lane and the refurbishment of a small city park. There are plans for an adjoining daycare center.
In short, the design responds to research developed by SHoP investigating community needs, but it may also address wider public skepticism: a belief that the share economy embodied by Uber only goes one way. San Francisco is a city that both reaps the benefits and suffers the consequences of tech-minded “disruption,” so perhaps this is a chance for the company to give back a little.
“It’s important for Uber to be in dialog with the community and the company is actively invested in the ground floor experience,” said Angelica Baccon, an associate principal at SHoP. “Even with a large footprint we are trying to create intimacy around the buildings.”
Inside, the urban theme continues in the public spaces, which are aptly called the “Commons.” A multi-story arrangement of gathering spaces and circulation includes glass bridges connecting the two structures. The solarium-like, glass and wood Commons acts as a transition between the city and the private offices.
The Commons allows a great buffer between the place where you might get focused work done and the place where you can interact with your work community at large,” explained Denise Cherry, principal of Studio O+A. “By creating a central boulevard of activity, you allow for a quieter work area.”
According to the architects, the workplace design departs from the newfound tech tradition of open plan offices; instead it proposes smaller groupings of work and support stations, or “neighborhoods.” However, it is still chock-full of meeting and collaboration spaces as well as amenities like coffee bars, libraries, a cafeteria, and an on-site gym.
With a company like Uber, one might wonder: Where will they park the self-driving cars? The answer could be in the nearby parking structure constructed as part of the Mission Bay’s development. The company, however, only took a portion of its allocated parking, ceding the remainder to its eventual neighbor, the Golden State Warriors Arena. The location is served by light rail and other public transit. And, of course, Uber employees will take Uber.