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Originally published Sunday, November 6, 2011 at 1:58 PM

Facebook finally moves into its own digs

For the first time in its new Menlo Park, Calif., campus, Facebook is its own landlord.

San Jose Mercury News

Meanwhile, in Seattle ...

As Facebook settles into its Silicon Valley campus, it's making moves in Seattle, too. Last week, the company said it was moving its office and 60 employees early next year to a building on Minor Avenue at the foot of Capitol Hill from its current site near Pike Place Market. The new office has enough space to accommodate up to 200 employees. In a Facebook post, Seattle office lead engineer Ari Steinberg said that the new space "will give us room to keep growing as we hire the best engineers in Seattle."

Facebook's new digs

Use it again: Facebook has used recycled building materials whenever possible. Climbing rope left behind by Sun in the fitness center has been recycled into hanging-room dividers.

Energy efficiency: Facebook is aiming for LEED Gold efficiency. The complex will have a carbon footprint 75 percent smaller than the former Sun campus, even though many more people will be working there.

Scrappy irreverence: Employees vote on conference-room names. The legal department's twinned conference rooms are named "If It Does Not Fit" and "You Must Acquit" — wording that O.J. Simpson lawyer Johnny Cochran would love.

Isolation: Because the campus is somewhat remote from downtown Menlo Park, it is being designed with enough restaurants and other amenities that employees have no need to leave at lunchtime.

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Ever since Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook in his Harvard dorm room in 2004 and moved four months later to Palo Alto, Calif., the company has occupied temporary, rented space. But for the first time in its new Menlo Park, Calif., campus, Facebook is its own landlord.

That means the social-networking company, never shy about using its offices to broadcast its upstart hacker identity, is taking self-expression to a new level in its first permanent home. From exposing structural-steel girders and offering them as another site for employee graffiti to choosing bare plywood as the ceiling material over employee walkways, Facebook's ongoing transformation of the button-down former Sun Microsystems campus is meant to telegraph that the company itself remains a work in progress.

"This is finished. Well, it's actually unfinished," said Facebook real-estate chief John Tenanes, as he walked through a section of the Menlo Park campus where cutaway walls and ceilings prompted a visitor to wonder whether the renovations were complete.

"Because our job is never done, we're only 1 percent of the journey. That's what Mark's mantra is — we're only 1 percent" along in the changes Facebook hopes to bring to the Internet.

Tenanes recently led a reporter and photographer through what will soon be Facebook's first permanent home. The aesthetics behind Facebook's new digs say much about the company's corporate values and beliefs — including its sense of urgency as a company.

About 500 Facebook employees, including the company's legal and finance departments, have already moved to Menlo Park. Tenanes' task is to complete renovations to enough of the nine-building former Sun complex to house an additional 1,400 employees by the end of the year, with work on the rest of the existing campus due to be completed by next summer — allowing the fast-growing company to accommodate 3,600 workers.

"We're under the gun here a little," Tenanes acknowledged, standing in the 1,200-foot-long courtyard that will be the central artery, where the view was dominated by dirt, construction equipment and half-painted buildings.

In a timetable that provides one measure of Facebook's growth, the company hopes to build an entirely new West Campus across the street, and win approval to house a combined 9,400 workers in the East and West campuses by the first quarter of 2014.

Open look

As in other Facebook offices, all the overhead heating and cooling ductwork in the new campus is exposed, with power and data cables hanging from the ceiling to individual work spaces. (To foster collaboration, Facebook employees don't have offices or cubicles; virtually everyone works side by side at long undivided tables.)

In Menlo Park, however, Facebook has taken the unfinished look even further. Employees can still write on the wall. But in the new campus, Facebook has added floor-to-ceiling blackboards where employees have additional opportunities for self-expression — including, as one person had written in blue chalk, "Don't be Googley," a wry poke at Facebook's biggest rival.

Throughout, Tenanes and his design team have tried to emphasize a scrappy irreverence, an on-the-cheap, do-it-yourself-ism that characterizes the computer-hacker culture Facebook embraces.

Facebook, for example, won't remove the "Sun Microsystems" logo from many doors it reused from the former owner. Tenanes would only say the Sun logos are "artifacts" of an earlier era in Silicon Valley. They also are a pointed reminder to employees about the fate of tech companies that fail to lead the wave of innovation.

"It's a really cool new space," said Rob Lauer, a Facebook employee who was traversing one of the hallways on a skateboard while on a break. "It feels really hacky because there's a lot of construction going on — but that's Facebook."

From the GM headquarters in Detroit to the Chrysler building in New York, companies have long used architecture to broadcast their brand, said Alan Hess, an architect and architecture critic for the San Jose Mercury News.

Projecting its brand

The Facebook headquarters "is very different from what the new Apple headquarters would be, which is extremely controlled" architecture, but Facebook is also using architecture to project its brand externally, as well as transmitting its culture internally. "It's architecture as a management tool," Hess said.

Throughout the central courtyard, Tenanes and his designers are trying to bring a sense of place to the campus. The central courtyard will get a stand-alone wooden BBQ shack, and the long courtyard will be lined with everything from food and coffee stands, to walk-up laptop-repair counters, and possibly even space for a resident artist.

Perhaps fittingly, Facebook's big man on campus gets the most social work space — on the ground floor facing the birch-lined space that is the widest area of the 5-acre courtyard.

"This will just be an open plaza," Tenanes said, standing in the dirt outside what will be Zuckerberg's new work space come late December. "It'll be totally a place to hang out."

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