You’re not a real Silicon Valley town unless some startup has laid claim to you and used metonymy to make your name synonymous with its brand. You’ve got Apple in Cupertino; Facebook in Menlo Park; Pixar in Emeryville; etc.
Anyway, the company that owns Mountain View is Google.
Today, I was walking around my aunt’s neighborhood in Mountain View when I found a little trail and followed it north of the highway. And then I slowly started coming upon buildings that were completely ordinary and looked just like every other office building in the Peninsula and the South Bay. The only thing that was weird about them was that there were these rainbow-colored bikes everywhere. And for some reason, the bikes weren’t locked…
I immediately had an impulse to steal one of the bikes. But I didn’t. Because I am a law-abiding citizen.
Anyway, longstoryshort, the Google campus is full of free bikes. It also has a tiny swimming pool that I assume has some kind of current or something so that you can swim in it while staying in the same place. And that was the only interesting thing that I saw. Other than that, it just looked like a massive office park. Physically speaking, there was really nothing special about it. I feel like I’ve heard so much yammering about how these campuses are amazing paradises, but at least architecturally speaking, they are not. The World Bank complex in DC, where I used to work, was a much cooler looking place. It was a ten-story building with a massive internal atrium that went all the way to the top, so the entire building was very open and airy. In fact, if you’re talking about impressive office buildings, I feel like the government has the private sector beat, because all of our nation’s most celebrated buildings–the White House, the Pentagon, the Capitol–are basically government office buildings.
I guess skyscrapers are something else, though. It’s been years since I’ve been inside a really tall skyscraper, but I imagine that those are somewhat cool. Still, the Googleplex was not nearly as cool as a really tall skyscraper (although I learned today, from Wikipedia, that Google also owns Manhattan’s third-largest office building, so there is that).
Still, there was something weirdly impressive about it. I did enjoy walking amongst all the buildings and all thin and moderately-attractive young people who seemed to be so at ease and sure of their place in the world. It was like a college that only had graduate students. And it was strange to reflect that Google was only founded in 1998 and only moved to Mountain View in 2004. All of this–everything I was seeing–was only ten years old.