Common Grounds
East Palo Alto, California

Common grounds is a new typology of tech campus, in which workers of various companies can come together to “work from home.” The building is concerned with the natural preservation, as well as embracing natural events, such as flooding and sea level rise because of their advantages to the endangered and threatened species in the area.

    The project serves as a man-made extension of nature, allowing its users to experience a controlled version of the unpredictable, untouched marshes on the east side of the site. The project will act as a levee, estimated to protect the communities of East Palo Alto until at least the year 2100. It will protect most of the neighborhood of Rosewood as well as the following local businesses from flooding: Knotty Hole Woodworks, Catered Too, Global Steel Fabricators, Our Common Ground, Sequoia Carpet, A1 Auto, La Familia Discount, The Atomic Garden, the EPA Police Department, Ecumenical Hunger Program, and The Shelter Network. The campus itself is tucked into the levee, which allows inhabitants to have access to both the city on the east side and the marsh on the west side. From the west side, the building is mostly camouflaged as an extension of the marsh, with the exception floodable atria. From the east side, the campus looks completely industrial. It is only when one looks from the north or south sides of the building that the intersection between nature and technology can be seen. The building combines living and working, just as nature and building coexist. In the modern era, it is very common for people to work from home, so the project places working and living in the same space to accommodate this growing trend. Further, the form of work has evolved from industrial production-based jobs, where specialized equipment might have been required, to tech jobs, where workers need only a computer. This allows for a new type of space, in which a person does not need to leave the comfort of their home in order to work.

    The site’s topography has been morphed to best suit the needs of inhabitants. The pushing and pulling of interior topographic lines takes into account the measurement of the human body and forms spaces that are optimal for sitting, standing, laying down, or other positions. For example, layers of topography might laminate to become taller surfaces such as seats or tables. Inhabitants are enabled to determine an optimal workspace, based on height differences or hard and soft surfaces.

    In common grounds, it is possible to combine domestic and work activities; workers have the choice between working from a traditional table or finding a nook to inhabit, and all activities share the same space. When a person is ready to transition from work to leisure, they might retrieve a blanket from allotted storage and assume a comfortable position in any space in the building that they deem fit.  The building also employs an organizational system of zones, which are correlated to the control of lighting. If a worker wishes to continue working late into the night, they might inhabit a zone with other workers who wish to leave the lights on. The system of peaks and valleys on the interior of the building will effectively keep lighting within its respective zone.

The housing, work, and amenity spaces mirror the mutually beneficial relationship of the city/marsh and the campus. Combining the office and living spaces allows workers to have a higher quality and quantity of amenities.



RESIDENTIAL UNITS - 50,000 sq ft

    A mix of small- to mid-size units, consisting of approximately 50,000 sq ft total.

    60% small-sized units/ shared space for more intimate collectives, ~250 - 650 sq ft each

    30% medium-sized units/ shared space for larger collectives, ~700-1000 sq ft each

    10% overnight guest units or short-term rental ~500-800 sq ft each


A series of spaces for immaterial labor—for a several smaller tech start-ups. This space includes shared amenities that are used between companies. There is approximately 35,000 sf of office spaces, and 15,000 sf of amenities.

- 20,000 sq ft

20% of the combined total square footage to accommodate:

Horizontal Circulation: Halls, Foyers, Lobbies

Vertical Circulation: Elevators, Stairs, Fire Stairs, Ramps

Building Systems: Mechanical Room, Elevator Mechanical, Vertical shafts, etc.

Storage: Tenant, Building, Additional Program, Bike Parking


Individual units have access to private or shared (non-public) and public outdoor space.

Parking: 100 spaces (9 x 18’) that are dedicated to a combination of car share programs, bike parking, scooter shares, or similar (8,100 sq. ft). They are placed adjacent to the building and 50 of those parking spots are dedicated for the community of East Palo Alto to use the amenities offered to the public in the project.

Bay Trail:  approx. distance needed 500-600 ft. long levee to protect neighborhoods of East Palo Alto including local businesses - 

Catered Too
Global Steel Fabricators
Menlo Food Corporation
East Palo Alto Police Department
Our Common Ground
La Familia Discount
College Track East Palo Alto
Project WeHOPE
Ecumenical Hunger Program

+ homes of families living in the
Raveswood community