Trading Silicon: From Suburban Office to Urban Campus

Ed Falkowski

The Future of Work


Jono Sturt + Clement Blanchet


The Silicon Valley has a specific urbanism: digitally interconnected but physically separated technology giants on individual campuses. These campuses are scattered amid low-density single-family suburbia and are typically founded near transportation infrastructure, a business district, and a large physical boundary that prevents growth by nearby competitors.

The technology giants also have a specific financialization. Capital can be divided into three circuits: primary (products and services), secondary (infrastructure), and tertiary (research and development). Tech giants offset the cost of research and development by coming out with yearly updates on the primary circuit. They rarely invest in infrastructure, opting instead to exist in digital spaces and platforms. It is important to note these tendencies when the ideas, themes, and spirit of Silicon Valley are exported.

Paris-Saclay is located south of Paris, proximate to the suburb of Saclay, but a distinct entity from both. The campus is creating a new entry in suburban office typology: a combination of “deep technology” companies, several universities, and mixed-use developments all on a single campus. But it is also problematic: the campus is labelling itself as an urban city campus, but it largely does not exist yet. While construction is moving feverishly, current Paris-Saclay masterplanning stops at 2030.

This thesis interrogates and critiques current thinking and the 2030 landing point, as well as speculates further into the future. Constrained to a land-locked site, the proposal focuses on connecting two disparate districts while balancing transportation infrastructure, density, and “mixity.” This thesis interrogates the values that Paris-Saclay will embrace as it continues to expand into an urban campus. Contending with so many different actors and variables has the potential to formulate novel urbanity, the implications of which can be brought to a global suburbia in planning for the future of work.