Silicon Valley is a hub for high-tech companies, drawing people from across the country and around the world to beautiful Northern California. There is a significant housing shortage throughout the cities that compose Silicon Valley, including in Menlo Park. Our client sought to help address this housing crisis by building a mixed-use project with apartments and office space in downtown Menlo Park.

We began the design process by understanding who would one day occupy the buildings, and how the exterior spaces would be utilized. Working with the architect and client, it was determined that the landscape design should cater to both residential families as well as professionals utilizing the mixed-use office building. Thus, the site design needed to create spaces with varying levels of privacy, all connected with a consistent design language. Three main exterior spaces emerged – a dynamic public plaza, a warm residential courtyard, and a flexible office roof garden.

A wide public plaza at the front of the property invites neighbors, residents, and office tenants to pause and enjoy the space. Large custom wood and concrete benches help define the plaza and are illuminated at night to create a safe atmosphere. Stormwater planters flank the space, filtering stormwater before it returns to the storm drain system. The material language of warm wood is continued in the fence around the plaza, providing privacy for the residential courtyard and units beyond.

Down a path lined with textured planting, the residential courtyard is revealed. An intimate outdoor living room grounds the space with an inviting wood bench and specimen Olive tree. Blackened steel planters throughout the courtyard carve out space for semi-private patios and treat stormwater from the building’s roofs. Linear wood benches emerge from several of the planters and provide ample seating for the residents. At the base of the planters, rich wood decking runs down the spine of the courtyard and unites the residential units.

On the third-floor office of the adjacent mixed-use building, a flexible roof garden peers above the trees with views to the western coastal mountains. A concrete seat wall topped with wood slats weaves through the space, rising to form a central concrete bar counter. NanaWalls wrap around the building, allowing employees to move effortlessly between the roof garden and interior space. The roof garden offers flexibility for the office tenants, providing a space that is equally suited for morning coffee with a view or a company-wide gathering.

The public plaza, residential courtyard, and office roof garden are all invaluable outdoor spaces for this Menlo Park project. Each offers something unique, but all speak the same material and design language with clean concrete lines and warm wood features. The stormwater planting throughout the project helps mitigate the impact on the environment, while also creating a green escape in the midst of downtown Menlo Park.

Architecture offices involved in the design: Brick Inc.

Project location: 650 Live Oak Avenue, Menlo Park, CA

Design year: 2017

Year Built: 2020


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