Inside Nvidia's Futuristic HQ: A Workplace Built For Collaboration

All Images: Lifehacker Australia

For the past five years, Nvidia has been building itself a shiny new headquarters in the heart of Silicon Valley. When it is completed at the end of this year, the 500,000 square feet structure will house up to 5000 employees across two floors. The site has been specifically designed to encourage collaboration with large congregational areas, open plan offices and staircases to enable chance encounters.

During GTC 2017, we were given a sneak peak inside the building which remains a work in progress. Here are the photos.

Located off the San Tomas Expressway in Santa Clara, Nvidia’s new corporate campus has been envisioned as a deeply collaborative workspace with an aesthetic that is unique to the company. Once completed, the building will comprise primarily of office space with a complement of developer labs and other support functions.

The building’s unusual triangular design is meant to represent the fundamental building block of computer graphics. Inside are over two dozen large conference rooms, more than 70 meeting rooms for smaller groups and multiple “open teaming” areas dotting the building’s two floors.

Elevators are almost entirely hidden from view: a deliberate design choice to encourage impromptu stairwell collaboration between different departments. This was prompted by an MIT study that found employees only have a five per cent chance of interacting during the day if they work on separate floors. While centrepiece stairwells are a common feature among SMBs and startups, it is rare to see them in a structure of this size.

The building's main entrance is nestled in its centre. This is also where the main toilets, conference rooms and coffee stations will be located. The intention is to get workers to socialise and collaborate instead of working in self-imposed silos.

The building is enveloped by a glass curtain constructed from tinted panels that cut about 50 per cent of the light coming in. This allows for the control of heat, glare and shadows.

The roof contains 245 triangular skylights. Their number and layout were carefully selected to ensure workers have the perfect amount of natural light - not enough to cause screen glare, but still bright enough to keep the electric lights off on sunny days.

The fluorescent vests, safety goggles and hard hats worn by media weren't just for fun: construction was in full swing during our visit.

The HQ's workshop is a stark departure from most computer labs. To cut down on wasted real estate, Nvidia has attempted to make the workshop attractive, quiet and comfortable so that employees can spend the entire day tinkering inside. (This is at odds with traditional labs which tend to be cold, artificially bright and noisy, requiring two separate work areas for engineers.) Described as a "grand experiment", the new workshop will have carpets in place of sterile linoleum, natural lighting instead of fluorescents and a full glass wall in place of concrete. Crucially, there will also be no noisy servers - these will be housed in a separate building.

The wooden structure covering the roof will eventually be converted into an atrium skylight. It will use clear glass covered in tiny dots to temper light coming through and improve solar efficiency.

While collaboration is encouraged, every area has its own sound proof "library" where employees can work in undisturbed solitude, should they wish to.

One of several rooms dedicated to virtual-reality applications such as Nvidia Iray.

The ground on the upper floor is perforated with vents to allow air to rise and circulate naturally.

This will be a showcase area where Nvidia and its partners will be able to display physical products. Note the indentations in the floor which will be fitted with podiums.

Nvidia opted to build its staff car park below the building. There are two levels of parking, one of which is subterranean with space for 1500 vehicles. This has freed up land for additional development in the future and also removes the eyesore of outdoor parking.

It might not look like much now, but this will soon be a state-of-the art cafeteria and kitchen. It will include a wood-fire pizza oven, sushi bar and even a vegan station. Nvidia estimates that it will serve up to 3000 meals per day.

Nvidia's new headquarters will have its own licensed bar. Originally conceived as an auditorium, the space was converted to a bar in the planning stages. We were told it will likely serve tea and coffee to employees during business hours. Unlucky.

Nvidia's new headquarters is set to open in September 2017. The pre-existing campus across the road will also remain open. Sportingly, Nvidia is inviting employees who are not relocated to visit the new HQ whenever they like - including access to the cafe.


Lifehacker attended GTC 2017 as a guest of Nvidia.


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