Monday, July 17, 2017

Embracing Urbanism - Part I - NVIDIA's Endeavor

This is the first in a new series here at The San Jose Blog; Silicon Valley - Embracing Urbanism.

Silicon Valley has gone through numerous phases of tech expansion with most recent growth focused on next generation workspaces and flagship campus development. While the corporate campus is not a new phenomenon, Silicon Valley has become synonymous with tilt up concrete low rise warehouses and land consumptive single family development for decades. This modular approach allowed companies to be nimble while growing or retracting with the ebbs and flows of the economy.  

Technology today is much more ingrained and rooted in our daily lives. With this, many tech firms have had unprecedented growth and large workforce requirements. With land values at a premium and traffic congestion at an all time high, there is pressure to rethink our built fabric. While planners, politicians, and thought leaders propose higher density, it also requires our region's main stakeholder, the technology sector, to act. The technology sector holds capital and resources to demand new innovation in workspace and campus design.  At the same time, the character and form of their campus reinforces brand, collaboration, and role in the community.

Among the most recent campus developments, Samsung Semiconductor completed their North American “cube” headquarters in North San Jose in 2015. Apple is nearing completion of the Apple Campus 2 in Cupertino aka “the spaceship” with it’s signature landscape open space in the center. Facebook completed their Building 20, a 430,000 square feet single open room in Menlo Park and landscaped green roof. Google has their “tent” campus plans moving forward in Mountain View as well as plans for upwards of six million square feet in the Diridon development in Downtown San Jose. (The San Jose Blog plans to cover this development in more depth in a future article).

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Images left to right, Samsung Semiconductor, Apple Campus 2, Facebook Building 20, Google Mountain View, taken from their respective website.

NVIDIA, an industry leader in graphics, deep learning, and most recently self driving technology, embarked on a multi-year campus redevelopment to meet projected staffing demands. Internally known as endeavor, the project has undergone multiple design phases, scope changes, and municipal review. In 2015, NVIDA’s new campus began to take shape, with completion slated for late this year.

Image: NVIDIA Endeavor Phase 1, Walsh & San Thomas Expressway in Santa Clara (2015)

Earlier this year, NVIDIA and SPUR graciously hosted a tour of the first phase of their new campus at the intersection of Walsh and San Tomas Expressway in Santa Clara. As other players in the tech space have developed iconic shapes, NVIDIA’s CEO Jen-Hsen Huang and design team looked to their own product for inspiration. Triangles; the basis for modern computer graphics became the perfect shape for connecting users and encouraging collaboration. As part of the design process, NVIDIA developed IRAY, a proprietary rendering engine to view the space in 3D with accurate lighting and materials in real time.

Here are some fast facts about NVIDIA’s Project Endeavor:
  • 500,000 square feet
  • Capacity for 2,300-2,500 employees
  • 1,400 parking spaces
  • 120 triangular skylights
  • Minimal use of elevators
  • $370m on time & budget
  • Developer - Sares Regis
  • Architect - Gensler
  • Interior Architect – Gensler
  • Landscape Architect – TGP
  • General Contractor - DEVCON

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Image: Phase 1, with NVIDIA’s campus to the left and right. 400ft Aerial Photography (2017)
The impressive structure is oriented as a series of two floors over below grade parking. While there are visible entries from San Tomas, the main entry is underground at the center, focused upwards. This unique arrangement enables employees to park or be dropped off under the main building and enter a triangular atrium through a “grand” staircase, linking multiple mezzanines and two main floors.

The tech scene’s mandatory dining space has a stadium seating amphitheater for presentations or impromptu meetings. The upper floor is host to a “bar” for spontaneous creative collaboration. As the focus of the new campus is to drive innovation through “creative collisions”, all circulation generally returns to the central triangular atrium. The main open floor workspaces are configured with raised floors for flexible realignment over time. These open floor plates are second only to the contiguous floor area of Facebook’s Building 20.

Exterior entry

Entrance to the Heart

As machine learning and technology advances, the campus will be monitored through automated systems capable of tracking individuals on campus. The tour took place prior to finish installation with the concrete and steel giving a cold appearance. It was revealed on the tour, wood and textiles will be introduced to soften and add warmth to the design.

Stadium seating oriented towards dining and common space.
Open Floor Plan, over open floor substrate

The Heart, “Designed to Inspire”, some of the 120 skylights in roof structure.

Triangular Atrium and Grand Stair, within the Heart.
Glass Exterior, parking entrance seen below
Bridge connecting upper mezzanines. (Reminiscent of a Deathstar bridge)
While the campus is generally open, there are no public spaces. However, the campus will have a series of walking trails and landscaped berms along the edge of the campus. Since the building’s capacity will exceed the number of parking provided, NVIDIA intends to rely on commuter shuttles, cycling, and future self driving services to offset the traditional demand for a 1:1 car to human ratio. Employees are able to take shuttles from nearby Caltrain stations to make a quick connection to the Peninsula and San Jose.

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Rendering from San Thomas; Gensler (2013)
Through advanced computer modeling and continuous refinement, the building seeks to reduce the impact on the environment through 75% reduction of potable water, reduced electrical grid demand through use of smart lighting, skylights, solar, and continued optimization.  Further optimization is achieved through a network of sensors for future automation and machine learning.  The building is slated for LEED Gold which is a monumental for a project of this size and scope.

I was very impressed with the project and look forward to seeing NVIDIA’s final product. It is worth stating NVIDIA’s CEO and board took this project through many iterations over many years with the end result better for it. I commend their efforts for efficiency and reduction of demand on the automobiles.

As future phases of this campus are built, it will help redefine the suburban office park. Time will tell if all future phases are realized, but as machine learning and self driving cars demand, more growth and future phases will likely take place.

Thanks to John O’Brien of NVIDIA and Noah Christman of SPUR for providing an in-depth preview of the Endeavor project.  Check out for updates from NVIDIA.

NVIDIA campus Satna Clara The Registry real estate
Initial rendering of Phase 1 and 2.  Presently Phase 1 is under construction: NVIDIA (2013)

-Andrew Rivlin


  1. The renders look much better than the final result. Looks like a warehouse.