Building Silicon Valley. Corporate Architecture, Information Technology and Mass Culture in the Digital Age


  • Lina Malfona Associate professor in architecture DESTeC Department, University of Pisa



Mass Culture, Information Technology, Corporation, Creative Work, Campus


The examination of the greatest technopolis in the world is a way of exploring how an architectural as well as cultural, economic, and urban—or better, suburban—phenomenon, linked to a specific framework, has affected an international context. By studying Silicon Valley’s phases of development, from its period of militarization during the Cold War to the era of counterculture and then of cyberculture, we can reread the history of information technology’s centers of production that have contributed to broadcast the Valley’s architectural and political image. Starting from the headquarters of Varian Associates—designed by Erich Mendelsohn and erected in Stanford Industrial Park in 1951 —and moving through the campuses that consolidated the image of creativity for which Silicon Valley became well-known in the Eighties, we will be able to have a retrospective look at the physical as well as virtual organization of the first IT corporations which supported the rising of the most powerful medium, the internet. This paper’s origin point is the examination of three texts written by the historian Reyner Banham between 1980 and 1987, and in particular the essay “La fine della Silicon Valley” [The end of Silicon Valley], published only in Italian in Casabella. References to facts, considerations, and events, taken from Banham’s texts, pepper this study like a parallel story that problematizes this area, highlighting both its technological heroism and its approaching demise.


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How to Cite

Malfona, L. (2019). Building Silicon Valley. Corporate Architecture, Information Technology and Mass Culture in the Digital Age. Histories of Postwar Architecture, 2(4), 75–97.