North American chipmaker Nvidia opened its “Voyager” office last year.
The 750,000 square meter space reflects the company’s philosophy of “no barriers and no borders”.
Business Insider spoke with the project’s lead architect.
Chipmaker Nvidia has had a successful few years. Demand for the company’s GPU chips has soared as artificial intelligence fever sweeps the world.
The company was an early adopter of the AI trend and has gained a significant lead in the production of chips used in thriving technologies like ChatGPT. The company’s valuation quickly rose to $1.2 billion, an increase of nearly 250% this year.
One of the keys to Nvidia’s success may lie in its flat organizational structure. “When you move so quickly, you want to make sure information flows through the company as quickly as possible,” said CEO Jensen Huang in a recent interview with Harvard Business Review. Nvidia has fully embraced the flat structure and eliminated three or four layers of management to work as efficiently as possible, Huang said. Another key to the “no barriers, no limits” approach, as Huang describes it, is the company office.
The office is named after a Star Trek spaceship
Opened in early 2022, the headquarters in the city of Santa Clara, California, is an imposing 750,000 square meter building designed to increase employee performance in line with the company’s vision.
The building, called “Voyager”, was designed by the architecture firm Gensler – and yes, it was named after a “Star Trek” spaceship.
Hao Ko, the designer responsible for the project, told Business Insider that the idea for the office is “rooted in the idea that people do their best work when they have a choice.”
The office offers employees a variety of spaces tailored to their individual needs – from individual spaces designed for focused work, mentoring or in-person meetings.
“A successful workplace should be a goal and not an obligation, so it’s also very important to design a comfortable space that reflects your company culture,” says Ko.
Ko said his company’s research showed that collaboration was more effective when teams worked in the same spaces.
“The pandemic has reminded us that work can happen anywhere, but it has also reminded us that bringing people together inspires them to do their best work,” he said.
Previously, Nvidia engineers were housed at traditional workstations, while other teams worked on different floors and even in different buildings. Gensler’s solution was to move all of Nvidia’s teams into one big room.
However, the team faced some issues related to sound and light in such a large, open space.
“We designed the shape of the roof to reflect sound without reverberation and chose the ceiling material to absorb noise,” explains chief architect Ko.
“It is also a challenge to distribute natural light evenly across a large space so that everyone can enjoy it. We solved this challenge by adding a variety of skylights to the roof, bringing people closer to the building’s glass facade and enlarging the large floor panels,” he added.
“The real innovation of the Voyager office is that the interiors create the feeling of working outdoors,” explains Ko.
“Inspired by the fact that Santa Clara has arguably one of the best climates in the world and that our backyards are an extension of our home lives, Nvidia challenged our team to create a workplace that harnesses the beauty and inspiration of the surrounding nature and that allows people to work outdoors all day,” he said.
The “four-acre workspace” features parks and “treehouses” for meetings, while trusses with solar panels that provide shade blend into the structure of the building.
The company also uses geographic nicknames to describe different areas of the building. The “mountain” staircase leads to the upper floors with laboratory spaces, while along the perimeter of the building there are “valleys” – naturally lit corridors that provide intimate meeting rooms and dining areas.
Ko said future workspaces will place more emphasis on giving people the freedom to choose where to work and work in healthier, more comfortable environments.
“By refining workplace design based on how people use it, we will continue to drive greater innovation and a more resilient future,” he believes.
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