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Patrick Sisson reports in details on plans for Walmart's new corporate headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, which attempt to accomplish many of the same kinds of walkable urban design that have become popular with many tech companies on the coasts. Instead of coming to the tech talent in places like the Silicon Valley, Walmart hopes to lure talent to them, in Arkansas.
In May, the company announced plans to build a new campus spread across 350 acres just blocks from Bentonville’s downtown. A vast reimagining of the company’s headquarters, complete with of-the-moment design trends—mass timber construction and bike paths bisecting cafes and outdoor meeting rooms—the planned campus offers a vision of corporate evolution, showcasing the retailer as a high-tech, cutting-edge talent magnet.
Sisson also points out the urban design ethos apparent in the designs, created by Gensler, Sasaki, and SWA.
It’s also a prime example of how corporations use—and, some might say, co-opt—the language of urbanism to present themselves as good neighbors and more attractive places to work. Walmart seeks to build a new neighborhood that will not only be a destination for tech workers, but also a new amenity for everybody in Bentonville.
As noted by Sisson, Walmart's urban design ambitions, as represented by these plans, also represents a return to the company's past as a small town store located on a walkable mainstreet, before it became synonymous with big box stores, sprawl, and massive parking lots.