A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round:
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery”
Taylor Coleridge - 1797
spans 200 years between Coleridge’s concept
of Xanadu and my sketch; I took more than 40 years
it after I first heard the poem and saw this
solution. It is a concept that, once commissioned,
take the better part of a decade to realize. There
all this - the last, and most significant, chapters
of which are still to be written. In terms
of my work
to create spaces for creativity and innovation, all
that I have done [link] is
but an exercise - a way of learning - a preparation
in order to build Xanadu.
If I do not
build it, or at least create the means to build it,
I will have have failed in the major objective of my
version of the Xanadu concept is built on a 100 meter
base with four 50 meter domes around a 70 meter dome
with three 100 meter towers. This would account for
approximately 50% of the campus facility the rest being
scattered throughout the natural landscape.
is a prototype of a self-contained MegaCity
concept. It is the smallest scale that
this can be comprehensively tested. Xanadu would
and demonstrate an entirely new generation of materials
and structural engineering; it will be build
more like an
airplane than a traditional structure.
is designed to be an Innovation Palace; a modern
built to house and facilitate human creativity and
innovation - individual, Group Genius and creativity
on the societal scale.
The scale of this version is between one thousand
and 1500 people in the main building and an equal
on the extended campus. This number could be halved
or doubled within the scaleability of the architectural
concept. From a design process and social critical
mass point of view, about 2,000 active participants,
at any given time, is the present working hypothesis
of critical mass. This implies an active ValueWeb
about 100,000 employing this one site (HUB).
Xanadu, of course, would have satellite and utilize
extensive RemotePresence and RemoteCollaboration techniques.
Xanadu is conceived as a REGIONAL facility
one of about 12 to be built throughout each major
with as many as 20 satellites, serving a total active
population of at least 3 million each. The idea is
critical mass of the entire population with a hub and
spoke architecture which will then lead to a rapid
process and a renaissance of human society and the
global economy. Xanadu, then, is both a symbol and
tool of a deliberate effort
to bring self-awareness and focus to the design
of an unpredictable and emergent
The growing network
Taylor NavCenters is a precursor to, a proof-of-concept
of, and an ultimate third tier network member of the
ultimate Xanadu configuration.
an innovation facility, Xanadu is deliberately designed
to be an R&D project, itself, pushing the state
of the art of materials engineering, infrastructure,
knowledge-tooling, transportation, energy, food production
and service, computing, multi-media and documentation,
work-process and facilities management. As such, the
project pays for itself, directly, in the knowledge
gained and its direct applicability to the consulting,
architecture and construction, hotel, facility management,
electronic, education industries, as well as, government
and social institutions.
is a three to $400,000,000 (US) project to bring the
main campus to fully operational status. It will require
the economic, intellectual and spiritual resources of
an entire biological-economic region. In its own creation,
it will have produced the first wave of innovation necessary
to launch a transformation of the society it serves.
know how I hate travel so you can imagine what
I was saying (well, I guess you heard me saying
some of it) about flying to Italy and the
prospect of staying 10 days out in the countryside
with the team. Why not just use the conference
center at the home office we spent so much
on last year?
arrived here three days ago and until now
just not felt like writing the outside world
- even you! For that is what this place is
- a self
contained world. I apologize about the silence
but I think you will understand. I will write
later about the project and what we are doing,
tonight, I just want to give you my impressions
about the place. You know I have always
thought spending money on buildings, other than
enough to keep the rain out and somewhere to
put the computer, was a total waste of time
You have always disagreed with me on that. Well,
I have to say I have changed my mind. I am even
thinking we should talk to that crazy architect
you keep mentioning and build the home environment
you always wanted.
I have not lost it - not completely at least.
It is just that I have been impressed (that is
hardly the right word!) in so many ways I cant
begin to sort it all out. Not yet. The environment
does matter - you always said that. Where
to begin? I will start at the beginning when we
first came upon Xanadu (I thought the name was
a bit weird until I read the story behind it).
were driving down a gently rolling northern
Italian countryside - you know, the whole bit:
curving narrow roads,
small villages that pop up and disappear, a
house here and there, small villages, an intriguing,
abstract landscape. We came around another
curve and suddenly there
was Xanadu nestled into the rolling landscape.
It was dusk and the whole Building (not a good
term) - it is more like a small city - was
- glowing; a poem rendered in light.
laugh at me for talking like this - it is
and that matters. I never though that buildings
could say so much. I never thought of them
a way to see things. That they actually
frame a viewpoint - a paradigm - a concept
of the world. Xanadu, in the dusk promised something
magical - and it has delivered on this promise
The surprising thing is that this is the most
practical and productive work place I have ever
experienced. I didnt know that art and
work could go together like this but they do.
More of that later.
had only a fleeting view of Xanadu and then lost
it again until we were right upon it - I am sure
this was deliberate. Then, the scale of the building
became apparent. They call this a KNOWLEDGE
VILLAGE and that is what it is. A network
NODE where inside and outside blend into
one another - where human made and Nature merge.
This is a technically advanced building but it
seems to be alive in a curious sort of human way.
I cannot explain it. The technology works
but it is never in your face. Transparency they
call it here.
approached through a heavily landscaped area that
just entered the building on one side. I am not
kidding - the landscape just went in the
building! And so did we. I thought this was the
front but I discovered it was not the next morning.
We spiraled down a ramp into an underground parking
area that looked up into the center glass dome
(with four smaller intersecting domes) - this
dome spans a couple hundred feet across. It was
then that the power of the environment struck
me - it seemed that in a few short minutes we
had been transported into another world. This
otherworldliness has stayed with me
all week and one reason why I have not wanted
to communicate. Our team needed a working retreat
and that is what we got.
how I always said the perfect software to
management would be totally configured for the
specific application? Well, that is what
Xanadu is - an OS for the team that is using
environment. A different team, a different OS
and a different set of support tools. A different
theme and expression. I admit I got this last
piece from the brochure on the building but
true nevertheless. The building - strong as it
is - adapts to us; we do not conform to it.
|We left the car and walked through this garden-parking
area until we came to an angled glass wall that
supported this large concrete bowl
above our head - at least something supported
it. When we arrived at the surface of the bowl
via escalator, we found ourselves on this indoor-outdoor
platform that overlooked the river below. There
were various activities going on and there were
other platforms above us. The glass wall continued
upward until it intersected with the largest center
dome - there is really no way to describe this.
We registered (outdoors!) on this platform almost
totally surrounded by water fountains, landscape
and live music. There was an eloquence, playfulness
and just fun element to this that
shifted our mood and somehow focused our attention.
It was an entry ritual simply and eloquently
done. This, it would turn out, would be the theme
of the stay. Everything done for us - even the
most routine - happens in a new framework - the
process is straight forward and simple, the support
technology transparent (and works!) - the environment
brings a new way of experiencing whatever
is going on.
net result is demanding. It demands you
pay attention. It demands creativity.
It demands your best in
return for what it is, what it gives and what
it represents. Yet, I have never been so rested
at one of
trip. This has been an unusual peak experience
and restful experience that I can imagine - even
the diet is customized for each of us. Of course
there is exercise, massage and real entertainment
- all done in a way that does not break our focus
yet facilitates our energy.
the saga. We left registration for
our individual rooms. Bill, Jack and I were
a suite and I thought all right, here we
go. Not that I dont like them but
the thought of being cooped up with this bunch
for a week didnt set so well. I was thinking
that Shangri-La had a price. We went to the
- they were in three banks each located in shafts
that started in the garage area and pierced
domes. They continued for some stories upward
(a total of 34, I was to find out later).
we came to the interesting part. Our room key
card, it turns out, is a voice activated pda that
takes care of all the logistics. You can turn
it off and navigate on you own - or use it. It
knows who you are and where you are and informs
you of locations, schedules and provides other
information in a context sensitive way. It also
takes care of information requests and billing
- everything. It gave the appropriate instructions
to the elevator and we were swiftly taken to the
appropriate floor. The elevator is very fast and
it was quite a sensation when we shot up through
the dome to the apartments (rooms, suites - whatever)
- above, The view was breathtaking.
5 domes are transparent and you can see through
them. When the elevator broke out, they looked
like glowing bubbles in the night with the two
other shafts about 150 feet away. They were supporting
clusters of rooms hanging off them like flowers
(I cant think of a better term). It turned
out these were the Suites, each one about the
size of a small house - each configured to hold
teams of various sizes. It became apparent, as
the week went on, that the session sponsors selected
our housing with great care - as was the case
cannot describe our Suite. There is a large
area with everything needed including several
niches for being with the group yet having
space. There is sitting, dining, and even a number
of small work areas. All the spaces blend together
yet each is
There is an outdoor deck which feels like hanging
on the edge of the world. In addition, each
of us has a private space equipped
with full facilities.
Our bags, by the way, were here before us
put in the appropriate rooms (You know how I
am about this). And, there was a light meal
out with our favorite foods (the profile I filled
out before leaving (remember the grumping)
really used here.
are the facts of it. But the facts
do not tell the story. The entire Suite feels
is floating on air - actually, it is.
Each unit is cantilevered off the elevator service
shaft. It is like having your own little private
world. [link] I
never knew that a place could be so exciting
and restful at the same time. I
in bed for some time just looking out before
drifting off to sleep. I think I was in an
altered state of consciousness by the time I
got into bed. I have never felt so supported,
independent yet part of a community - I will
never know how they managed to get all my favorite
colors in the room.
the morning the why of the shapes
of these rooms (all triangles and hexagons) became
evident. From the bed, I watched a world being
reborn as it slowly appeared out of the morning
mists. From my perch, I could see in three
directions - a glass room 300 feet in the
air with total
privacy. You should see the shower! There are
possibilities here that you and I have to
day, I have experienced this same sense of
awaking and it has remained
fresh each time - it reminds me of when we went
camping together when we were in school. I
realize how much I have missed those days and
the freedom we had. It has made me wonder
about some of the trade offs I have made for
position - but, more of that later.
In some way, the room has connected me back
in my life. Things, too often, I have forgotten
day-to-day of work. I wonder, now, how this isolation
from nature and ourselves we experience as
our “normal” lives effects the decisions we
make as a business. At Xanadu, everything seems
- there is context. There is meaning. There
is life - everywhere
little room has an interesting mix of prospect
and refuge (I have been learning some architectural
terms you see). The prospect seems
as unlimited as the view, at the same time,
the sense of shelter
and refuge is very great. You feel anchored
to the vertical shafts from which the rooms are
cantilevered. The fireplace is a nice touch
usable in the cool mornings. The room - my private
place - has everything required for hours - even
days - of personal time and work. A few steps
and I am in a community of colleagues. A few
more steps and a short elevator ride and we
in a city of opportunities and tools.
Jane Jacobs was right - you always said that
with the rest. So was Alexander - this is a place
of Pattern Language. I have to admit I never
thought all that stuff you studied in art school
was practical - now I know better and I apologize
for putting it off.
the domes and their various platforms are housed
a variety of personal, team, community, public
and private spaces. These areas can be quickly
and easily set up so that the right combination
of exclusion and inclusion is afforded teams
they work. Support tools - of all kinds - are
ubiquitous but never intrusive - they never
between you and the work - or your teammates
be they with you, in another part of Xanadu
a world away. It is such a strange combination
of high intensity work that feels like a vacation
and technology that feels alive, organic and
natural. Yes, I remember you rants about a
must be a thousand people here from 10 to 15 organizations
plus the several hundered that work here or hotel
here for some period of time. It feels like a
hot urban space - lots of action. But it is never
crowded or unpleasant. I thought it was all terribly
elaborate so I dropped into the office and they
showed me their utilization records - they are
serving more people on a square foot basis than
our home office is! You should see their ROC.
Am going to stop here - this is already too
long and I have not begun to say it all. I will
send another message soon - I promise!
is no reason for public buildings to lose intimacy.
There is no reason for then to become common - to overwhelm
nature or human. There is no reason for human scale
and detail to be lost. There is no reason for them to
be boxes within boxes and devoid of shape
and spaces that express different modes of thought and
activities. No reason for long dull corridors, oppressively
low ceilings, distorted light spectrums that make migraines,
window walls that look nowhere, materials that lack
quality and touch - and, there is no reason to believe
that these things do not negatively impact the human
is no reason for them to be built of materials that
make you sick and destroy nature - no reason.
is nothing practical about environments that are designed
to be only practical.
is an idea. An idea to be expressed in every aspect
of the built place. It is an idea to actively engage
with the people who live and work there. It is not
to impress or look spectacular, it is designed to provide
a different experience. Each action that
takes place within Xanadu is provided specific support
and and is framed in a way that it becomes a self-aware
aspect of an intentional life. Life processes become
of the high variety of architecture shapes - due
the complexity, scale and scope of the geometry of
the building - problems of logistics, arrangement
can be more easily solved than within the low variety,
start-with-a-box school of design. In the case of
Xanadu, a myriad
functions have to be incorporated within the structure.
Almost every function there is (living, social, work,
recreation, etc.) is required short of full scale
This has to be done in a transparent way and
issues [link] solved
so that places within the
whole do not become fragmented and isolated. This is
why it has to be seen as a Mega-City even though it
is smaller in scale than that notion usually implies.
as Xanadu is a work of architectural art it is designed
to be operated as an engine of creativity and
innovation. Not just in an abstract conceptual sense
- it is a tool of knowledge production from
the concept through the prototype stages. The Village
shape the environment to meet the specific requirements
of different groups employing models of creative and
production processes. This is a fine-grained discrimination
- not done with gross assumptions and folk-wisdom
of understanding. The exact environment required by
a team can be created and adjusted by feedback [link] as
work process proceeds.
and shapes of rooms, color, sounds, degrees of privacy,
prospect, refuge, access to information and tools -
and so on - can be shaped, minute-to-minute, hour-to-hour,
day-to-day as required by each group in terms of where
they are in the creative process and their own individual
and group cognitive profile. Xanadu is designed from
the beginning to do this. This is supported by algorithms
developed over 25 years of Group Genius facilitation.
When you think of the actual psychological and physiological
responses of the human organism to the physical environment
and the act of creation you can understand why this
will be coming home tomorrow so I will keep
this short. Our work here was extraordinarily
productive and I will tell you about it when
I arrive home. One thing that I did learn here
was that it is a good idea for families to come.
As you know, we rejected that option and I agreed
with that decision. There is another corporation
working here that took the opposite tact and
reported great success with it. They even had
spouses involved in some of the business exercises.
I was skeptical about this but they reported
spectacular results. It turns out that there
are a number of real things to do here for all
ages and interests. The sum of it, no matter
all the options and various levels of involvement
in the business piece, is a common experience
for the entire family to share. When we come
back, I am going to recommend that we choose
this option. There is no doubt that we will
continue to be intrigued with this environment.
Even more so than my last writing. You can tell
that Xanadu is impressive - and that it did
me. What is more unusual (at least for me) it
that this effect does not wear off - it grows.
It does become nomal. I am thinking
of my office now as the exception, and in this
case, a poor one. Impoverished is a better word.
Xanadu now feels like an old friend or like
sweater I love to wear around the house on cold
days. Comfortable. At the same time, it is an
effecient tool that augments [link] what
I am doing.
me give you some facts I have found out
about the building. It sits on a 300 feet square
base that goes into the ground on the high side
and projects three stories out of the ground in
the low side of the slope - this part of the site
is where the outdoor recreational facilities are
and access to the river (we had a great team building
session sailing one of the boats).
Towers, as I said before, are 35 stories high
and support 30 suites that can house three to
8 people each. There are many mini
Towers with Suites scattered around the 60 acre
site. All together, well over a thousand people
live and work here at a time. As I have mentioned,
the accommodations reconfigure for the different
sizes and requirements of groups. This is not
simply the old typical folding wall that looks
like a screen that cuts a big space in half -
when a space is configured at Xanadu, it looks
like and feels like a permanent space.
is a major feature of the environment. We are
all used to interior landscaping,
these days, but it is handled differently here.
Planting is ubiquitous. This is more like a structure
in a garden than a garden in a structure. It is
interesting how this is accomplished in a building
of this scale. There are major portions of the
structure, on all levels, that are completely
devoted too interior and exterior landscaping,
sitting and recreational purposes. In fact, no
matter where you are, you are only a few paces
away form one of these areas. This materially
adds to the naturalness of the environment.
Another thing is the landscaping progresses through
several layers - from ornamental to edible to
the natural terrain. Much of the food
used here is actually harvested from the grounds,
and in some cases, from the building itself. This
migration from domestic to wild
is progressive, and at any given point, you cannot
perceive a break in continuity.
landscaping is actually an active player in the
energy, water and temperature management strategy
of the complex. This can be as simple
as shielding the glass from certain sun angles
during certain seasons and parts of the day to
using the cooler air associated with the heavily
landscaped areas to using natural processes that
completely filter the water and return it to the
building for reuse.
is a fact that soothes my accountants soul:
this complex uses less than 50% of the energy
usual for a building of its size, use and class
and it generates a great deal of it. It is a marvel
of structural, materials and energy innovations.
Toxicity from materials is virtually non existent.
The building managers say this was a program goal
and necessary given the use of the complex as
an Innovation Center. It is a matter of
Integrity is the way they put it. This is
actually an active factor in what makes this place
work. Compromise does not come easy in this place.
You are surrounded by proof that good design,
high values, fun, creativity and practical results
are possible in one integrated package. The building
actually challenges us: will you do less?
it seems to say. The answer is hell no!
can gather from all this that there is absolutely
no distinction between indoors and
outdoors here. One flows into the
other by a series of subtle seamless transitions.
As impressive and forceful the structure
is, it is always in background to
what we are doing in, on and around it. There
is also no distinction between creation and re-creation
- between work and play. They are seen and managed
as the same thing!
my name tag that acted as my navigator.
I have discovered it does more than that. It
gives me private access to a documentation of
experience here. And I mean literally that.
The building is a super-scribe and intelligent
agent [link] that
augments our work. This is done, I am told,
by a patented process. All I have to
do is talk to my name tag, ask for the items
I want, choose a few options and an entire multimedia report of
my experience is created - all linked back to
detailed source data.
They say that the building is approaching full
Turing capability and will achieve it in a few
years. I am not sure what this means but it is
like living in a space that is also your personal
assistant. All of us have started to actuality
have feelings about the building as if it was
our friend who knew us intimately. A bit weird,
to say I have some ideas for our dream
and I think it is time for us to get on with
it. Attached are a bunch of pictures and video
the building took for me as I worked and lived
here. Use the personal view mode
and you will get a close recreation of my actual
Remember Brins book The Transparent
Society? This entire place is reciprocal
transparency [link] in
are a number of CRITERIA
have to be fulfilled and Pattern
Language [link] values
that has to be met for a work of architecture to meet
human standards. No matter
scale scope budget or purpose of a building, these
criteria and values can be met. Not to met them is
a failure that has no excuse. Modern structures -
particularly large ones - generally fail to
The results are devastating; yes devastating to the
human soul and experience of a benevolent life - all
the more so because few know what they are missing
experience (all too rare!) of an environment that
the challenge of truly framing, expressing and facilitating
their human experience.
can be executed with this level of care. It is within
the technical means of todays building and manufacturing
arts - it does require, however, a massive synthesis
of many techniques that have never been pulled together
in one project and the willingness to take the “next
step” in building evolution. Its basic design
concept is complex enough to contain the variety implied
in the program of the project. Often, the architectural
concept is too simple to hold the functionality
required by the sum-of-the-tasks that are to take place
within the environment no matter how good (otherwise)
the design and execution is done; this is not the case
with this design.
the building is somewhat unusual in its form is
to reject it out of hand. There are deep reasons for
each piece of it. Reasons that cut right to the
of human nature and the requirements of the program.
The long held prejudice that a building has to be
simple geometry to be affordable is just that: a prejudice
based on ignorance of the building and manufacturing
These issues are addressed elsewhere in the NASA
[link] and Swimming
Pool Stories [link].
is also important to note that a project of this
complexity and type should not be attempted in one
leap. It should stand as a THERE,
from which a series of HERE projects can
be accomplish though a rapid prototyping process.
The BRAND essence
of the vision, however, can be built into each of these
progressive expressions. By prototype, I do not mean
not-useful or prone to mistakes. Each project should
and can meet its functional requirements and serve
coupling of program, means, concept, technology and
business model is extraordinarily tight with this
to architecture. This is, of course, what Taylor Architecture,
AI and SFIA Architects-Master Builders has been doing
for 22 years - Getting HERE from
THERE. Every project we do, while having total
integrity to it’s own purpose and client mission,
is a step to Xanadu [link] and, ultimately, a member
of the Xanadu ValueWeb.
Xanadu is attempted in one step, the prototyping process
can be accomplished by the design and development of
the auxiliary buildings on the site. As example, my
Bay Area Studio project explores many Xanadu aspects
on a smaller scale.
is a serious, practical environment, work process
and technology augmentation architecture concept - it
is not a fantasy. I am asserting that not to build on
this level is a cop-out and a default to the no-longer-adequate
status quo. Next time you find yourself bored to tears
in a building ask yourself why. And ask yourself why
not. Why not go for an environment the supports and
expresses the full range of human variety and creativity?
Unless, of course, you like living in little
boxes deriving “solutions” to (parts) problems
that do not represent the true challenges we face.
|GoTo: IDIAP Presentation 2005
|GoTo: THERE - Xanadu ValueWeb
June 4, 2000
voice of this document:
VISION STRATEGY SCHEMATIC
June 4, 2000
May 12, 2003, 2002
• 20000614.142736.mt 20000708.615319.mt
• 20010131.987329.mt 20010203.563825.mt
• 20021209.418872.mt • 20021215.408822.mt •
• 20030512.777712.mt •
this document is about 85% finished
Matt Taylor 2000, 2001, 2002
aspects described are Patented and Patent Pending by iterations
to Matts Notebook
Statement and Policy
Xanadu Program is based on:
THE KNOWLEDGE FACTORY 1986
THE IC FACTORY 1998