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Western Digital – Notes From The Designer

By October 21, 2015September 15th, 2017Project Development

Western Digital

FabriTec_Western-Digital-Walkway-Canopy_Sketch-UpFabriTec recently completed construction of a tensioned fabric structure walkway canopy at the site of Western Digital’s Mountain View campus whose total size equals approximately 4,700 sq. ft. The uniquely angular design of the walkway presented many challenges for the steel and fabric fabrication teams and had us wondering exactly what was the inspiration for the design. For an explanation, we turned to the architect, Peter Vatkov. Here’s what he had to say:

“The City of Fremont is rapidly developing as a key node of the Silicon Valley urban network. It attracts cutting edge technology firms whose new campuses embody the spirit of youth, novelty, and vision of the future. In the competition for skilled labor the quality of the work environment plays a substantial role.

The Fremont facility of Western Digital, a leading hardware manufacture, consists of two major buildings. The intense pedestrian traffic generated between the buildings illustrates the dynamics of the various organizational, technological, and social forces dominating the life on campus. People, carts, and vehicular traffic obey the pattern of invisible but powerful magnetic field created between the buildings. In this field as in particle collider, 1000 employees clash into each other each day, exchanging intellectual and emotional energy. Whether it is busy walking while mentally organizing the next project, talking with colleagues, relaxing alone or with friends, having a snack, waiting for the boss, checking the latest on the Net, getting some fresh air between two tasks, noticing the hills and the sky – the chances are it will happen on this main campus spine.

Creating an environment able to accommodate such a variety of settings is a challenge that measures up with the significance of the facility. The “to have in mind and address in design” list includes groups such as existing work conditions, Company’s management vision, manufacturing processes, organizational patters, social life on campus, safety, comfort, green approaches, technical aspects, budget, and schedule. But to understand this project would mean to go beyond the rationalization. It would mean to feel the spirit of the Silicon Valley, the bravery to venture into the unknown, the enthusiasm that drives the discovery, and the ability to dream. 

The walkway project is as a result of the symbiosis of meticulous observation, study and analysis of campus life, with the desire to capture the “spirit” of creativity. The rational and the intuitive are engaged into an intricate play in which the players exchange sides. Behind the seemingly free form there is a disciplined science that demands 1/16 of an inch precision of the manufacturing and installation of the 330 ft long canopy structure. Behind the rational of myriad code restrictions, technical requirements, material and technological demands there is a desire to play, to challenge the gravity, and an attempt to push the boundary of what is structurally possible. The result is an environment that embraces the needs of the staff but also creates an emotional ambiance. Thus between the clean lab and the cubicle, between the office and the production hall there is a link that offers a palace to pass, but also place to sit, step aside for a moment and talk to a colleague, get protection from the sun, enjoy the nature.  

The walkway is more than a construction project. It is a reflection of the bond of the people that made it possible – a result of the close collaboration of the Western Digital administration, Facility Management, the architect, the engineers, the canopy structural designer and manufacturer, and the general contractor.

If looking at the canopy one wonders how such structure resists seismic forces and the wind, he should be reminded that it is not only the hundred pages of structural calculations that made this possible. It is the minds and the hearts of the people that made it strong.”

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