Roy Gilbert

The home garage is the design template for many start-up offices

Air lock. Dense floor plans, tinker’s toys, junky desks, and pizza boxes. There’s a reason why many start-up offices look so homely. They’re built to the design template of a garage. San Francisco-based architect Hattie Stroud made the observation during the recent Vitra International Architects’ Day conference, as she tried to explain why the carport is so alluring a design metaphor, and especially for Silicon Valley tech start-ups. “In the American psyche, the garage is a place of possibility and refuge. It offers the space to make a mess and to tinker. It is a space of refuge for teenage angst and mid-life crises,” Stroud said. She cited a joint-research initiative by Stanford University, Northeastern University, and WRNS Studio where she works. The garage figures in the foundational myth of many top tech companies, Stroud points out. For instance, engineers Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard famously began HP in an 8 ft x 18 ft shed in Palo Alto (pdf, p. 2) in 1938, with the encouragement of their Stanford University professor Frederick Terman . That one-car garage, which is attached to a bungalow once owned by Packard and his wife Lucille, is hailed as the “birthplace of Silicon Valley.” (Incidentally, HP calls its innovation blog, “ The Garage “.) HP founders revisit their original lab in 1989. From the publication “A home for innovation: The HP Garage—the Birthplace of Silicon Valley.” Similarly, Larry Page and Sergey Brin started Google in a rented garage in Menlo Park. The company […]

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