Pixar’s 20-acre campus in Emeryville, California isn’t for everyone.
On one hand, its design makes getting around woefully inconvenient: where short and efficient right-angles and straight-line paths could’ve been built, there are funny curves and contortions.
On the other hand, maybe quickly getting to one’s office or to the subway station isn’t the point. Maybe the curves and contortions are not the product of bad planning but the result of trying to achieve something else entirely.
As Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace note in Creativity, Inc: “[Pixar’s campus] has well-thought-out patterns of entry and egress that encourage people to mingle, meet, and communicate”.
Efficient travel isn’t meant to be the campus design’s killer app. It’s about enabling the creative process through happy accidents and detours along the way from A to B (because getting to B isn’t enough) that involve you exchanging ideas with people you may or may not be working directly with. Or so the theory of magic goes.
Pixar’s campus really is the best and the worst. For those who revel in the serendipitous encounters that fuel their creativity, the campus is just the thing to do the trick. For those who would rather be spared the delay: it leaves much to be desired.
Designing for average is a myth. Some people like their drinks hot, others cold. That doesn’t mean we should try to appease both ends; no one is lining up to buy a lukewarm drink. Pixar’s campus solves Pixar’s problem and for everyone else there are plenty of other buildings.
Likewise, your creative work won’t solve everyone’s problem and it doesn’t need to. If the people you serve want a hot drink, make an unapologetically hot drink; for everyone else who really wanted the cold one, someone else will make it. The world is big enough for it all.