Ap­ple’s new HQ

Why the fu­ture is dough­nut-shaped

Mac Format - - CONTENTS - Words: Gra­ham Bar­low Images: Getty Images, Ap­ple Inc, Ap­ple Tool­box, Myithz

As an Ap­ple fan you’ve prob­a­bly heard all about the new Ap­ple Cam­pus by now. The dough­nut-shaped build­ing that looks more like a space­ship than an of­fice. With work well un­der­way, and the build­ing start­ing to take shape on the ground, it’s time to re­visit the project and see how it’s get­ting on.

In 2010 Ap­ple pur­chased a 98-acre cam­pus from Hewlett Packard (HP), con­tain­ing of­fices and car parks, just up In­ter­state 280 from its cur­rent head­quar­ters in Cu­per­tino, Cal­i­for­nia. Five years pre­vi­ously Ap­ple had started mop­ping up ad­join­ing prop­er­ties and an­nounced they wanted to build a new cam­pus on it, but the res­i­dents of Cu­per­tino could only guess at the rea­sons for Ap­ple’s lat­est, mas­sive land grab. Surely this was too much land for even Ap­ple’s grand de­signs? Then on 7 June 2011, Ap­ple CEO Steve Jobs turned up at the Cu­per­tino City Coun­cil to re­veal Ap­ple’s plans.

De­spite look­ing no­tice­ably thin (sadly, Jobs died from can­cer later that year), he was in buoy­ant mood. Ap­ple, he de­clared, was “grow­ing like a weed”, which meant the com­pany had run into dif­fi­cul­ties try­ing to find suit­able of­fices for all its staff in its beloved Cu­per­tino.

But of course Ap­ple didn’t want to build a typ­i­cal set of cor­po­rate of­fices. In­stead, it wanted a brand new kind of megas­truc­ture at the heart of a huge cam­pus that looked like the ex­act op­po­site of a cor­po­rate head­quar­ters. Jobs was

at the coun­cil of­fices to get the plan­ning per­mis­sion for his new ven­ture. And, typ­i­cally, he was go­ing to pull out all the stops to get it.

Sa­cred land

To set the scene, Jobs told the story of how the land it­self was sa­cred to Ap­ple folk­lore. At the same time as a young Steve was work­ing in his piv­otal first job for his tech­nol­ogy idols, HP had se­cured the area for its new cam­pus. But be­fore that, Jobs re­mem­bered that the area was part of the tra­di­tional land­scape of Cal­i­for­nia from his youth – acres of fruit trees and apri­cot or­chards (which be­comes rel­e­vant later).

Much like he had wowed the world’s me­dia at the launch of the iPhone, Jobs wowed the city coun­cil­lors with tan­ta­lis­ing artist im­pres­sions of what the new HQ would look like – a kind of fly­ing saucer, or a large dough­nut if we’re hon­est – four storeys high, sat in 175 acres of lush green park­land filled with trees. “We’ve seen th­ese of­fice parks with lots of build­ings, and they get bor­ing pretty fast, and we want to do some­thing bet­ter than that", ex­plained Jobs, com­ment­ing on the fu­tur­is­tic, UFO-shaped build­ing.

The main build­ing is a per­fect cir­cle, with curved glass all around. “There’s not a straight piece of glass in this build­ing”, said Jobs. Adding: “If you know about build­ing, you know that this is not the cheap­est way to build some­thing”.

Ap­ple rarely spares any ex­pense in its of­fices. It has over 300 re­tail stores, and while they all share a com­mon theme of bright, airy open space,

Ev­ery­thing in this project is hand crafted. It’s push­ing the bound­aries of tech­nol­ogy

with lots of glass and wooden ta­bles, each one is unique and de­signed to per­fectly com­ple­ment its sur­round­ings. Be­cause of the Ap­ple Store in Pudong, Shang­hai, the com­pany has a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence in build­ing with, and man­u­fac­tur­ing, curved glass. In fact, the Shang­hai Ap­ple Store con­tains the largest pieces of curved and tough­ened glass ever man­u­fac­tured. “We know how to make the big­gest pieces of glass in the world for ar­chi­tec­tural use,” boasted Jobs. “It’s pretty cool.”

“This project is push­ing the bound­aries of tech­nol­ogy in al­most ev­ery as­pect”, says Ste­fan Behling, an ar­chi­tect from Foster + Part­ners speak­ing in Ap­ple’s pro­mo­tional video for the new cam­pus. “The fa­cade will be new, the glaz­ing is a com­pletely new sys­tem, never been done be­fore, the con­crete struc­ture is unique. Ev­ery­thing is hand crafted for this project.”

The in­te­rior of the of­fice space is also any­thing but con­ven­tional. Few de­tails have emerged, but Behling is keen to point out that “we have a build­ing that is push­ing so­cial be­hav­iour and the way peo­ple work to new lim­its.”

While the dough­nut-shaped main build­ing is re­mark­able, per­haps the big­gest fea­ture of Ap­ple’s su­per cam­pus is what they’re not build­ing on the site. A stag­ger­ing 80% of the site will be land­scaped park­land, and to make this pos­si­ble Ap­ple has de­cided to put most of the park­ing un­der­ground.

An­other way the cam­pus build­ings work in har­mony with their sur­round­ings is their height – all the struc­tures on the site are only four storeys high. So while the main build­ing may dom­i­nate in terms of size, it’s not go­ing to ar­ti­fi­cially tower over its sur­round­ings like a sky­scraper would.

Pow­er­ful stance Like all other com­pa­nies, Ap­ple is de­pen­dent on the power grid, and if there’s an out­age they don’t want to have to send every­body home for the day. The site will have its own power source as a backup. In fact, in typ­i­cal Ap­ple think­ing, Steve re­vealed that the en­ergy cen­tre could be­come the pri­mary source of power for the cam­pus, since Ap­ple can gen­er­ate its own power us­ing so­lar pan­els in ways that are cleaner and cheaper than con­ven­tional grid power, and use the grid as their backup. Not even public elec­tric­ity is good enough for Ap­ple!

An­other fea­ture of the new cam­pus is a spe­cially de­signed au­di­to­rium. Part of Ap­ple’s whole run up to re­leas­ing a new prod­uct is the key­note de­liv­ered by the CEO. Cur­rently the com­pany has to go to San Fran­cisco to host th­ese events, usu­ally at the Moscone Cen­tre, or the Yerba Buena Cen­ter for the Arts over the road, pre­sum­ably at vast ex­pense and in­con­ve­nience. With a pur­pose-built, au­di­to­rium in their own backyard, Ap­ple will be able to stay home while the world’s press comes to visit.

But let’s re­turn to Steve Jobs pre­sent­ing to the Cu­per­tino City Coun­cil in 2011. All he needed was the coun­cil to give Ap­ple plan­ning per­mis­sion for the build­ing. It was clear Jobs, per­haps the great­est sales­man in his­tory, wasn’t go­ing to walk away from the meet­ing empty handed. Wowed by his movie star-like pres­ence,

the coun­cil put up zero re­sis­tance (there was one ques­tion about what lo­cal res­i­dents would get out of the cam­pus un­der the guise of a de­mand for free Wi-Fi, but Jobs brushed it off with the thinly veiled threat of tak­ing their tax dol­lars to Moun­tain View if the coun­cil de­nied him here).

Money talks

Un­sur­pris­ingly the Cu­per­tino City Coun­cil folded to Jobs and his tax dol­lars quicker than new iPad Airs fly off the shelves, the project got the go-ahead it needed and Jobs left a happy man.

Of course, Steve Jobs died in Oc­to­ber that same year with­out ever see­ing ground bro­ken on a project that could ar­guably be­come his great­est le­gacy. Af­ter all, Ap­ple Cam­pus 2 will still be here long af­ter the Mac, iPhone and iPad are con­signed to foot­notes in his­tory. It’s ironic that Jobs didn’t live to see Ap­ple Cam­pus 2 com­pleted, be­cause it car­ries all his hall­marks. Part fu­tur­is­tic moth­er­ship, part nos­tal­gic recre­ation of his child­hood years, it com­bines his twin ob­ses­sion with sleek min­i­mal­ist de­sign and ground-break­ing in­no­va­tion.

Jobs once said, “When you’re a car­pen­ter mak­ing a beau­ti­ful chest of draw­ers, you’re not go­ing to use a piece of ply­wood on the back, even though it faces the wall and no­body will see it. You’ll know it’s there, so you’re go­ing to use a beau­ti­ful piece of wood on the back. For you to sleep well at night, the aes­thetic, the qual­ity, has to be car­ried all the way through.”

If the new Ap­ple cam­pus lives up to the per­fect, un­der­stated sim­plic­ity and at­ten­tion to de­tail of its de­signs, it’s looks will be a fit­ting trib­ute to the man who founded Ap­ple.

Steve Jobs was determined that Ap­ple’s new HQ would be dif­fer­ent. But was his cir­cu­lar

de­sign in­spired by UFOs of dough­nuts?

All park­ing will be un­der­ground and an ex­tra­or­di­nary 80% of the site will be land­scaped park­land.

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