There’s some­thing in the air at Ap­ple Park

The new cam­pus shrine to Steve Jobs runs a close sec­ond to un­veil­ing of iPhone X

USA TODAY International Edition - - MONEY - Marco della Cava @mar­codel­la­cava USA TO­DAY

CU­PER­TINO, CALIF. Ap­ple Park smells like ... ma­nure.

That’s be­cause the grounds on this 175-acre cam­pus — call it a shrine to Steve Jobs — are still so new that the land­scap­ing is freshly dusted with pun­gent fer­til­izer, help­ing some 9,000 na­tive and drought-re­sis­tant trees and other fo­liage take root.

While the star of Tues­day’s big event here un­ques­tion­ably was the new iPhone X, with its edge-to-edge screen and fa­cial recog­ni­tion fea­tures, Ap­ple’s new cam­pus pulled up a close sec­ond.

Walk­ing along a few highly pa­trolled paths (this is Ap­ple, af­ter all) from a large pub­lic area — dom­i­nated by its cafe/shop vis­i­tors cen­ter — to the Steve Jobs Theater, one is struck by a few things. First, this had to be what it felt like to en­ter Dis­ney­land when it first opened, fresh with prom­ise and fea­tur­ing park­ing garages cleaner than most homes. Af­ter all, Jobs and Dis­ney shared ob­ses­sive vi­sions of qual­ity and in­no­va­tion.

Sec­ond, the land­scape ar­chi­tects have man­aged to pull off a David Cop­per­field-like feat, mak­ing a mas­sive, 2.8-mil­lion-square­foot ring of a head­quar­ters vir­tu­ally dis­ap­pear. Through the clever use of care­fully crafted hillocks and berms, the HQ peeks in and out of view rather than dom­i­nat­ing the land­scape.

Smil­ing Ap­ple per­son­nel firmly stopped all at­tempts to get a closer look at the Fos­ter + Part­ners ed­i­fice, phys­i­cally block­ing me­an­der­ing paths that led closer to this Oz-like build­ing. But from a dis­tance, the build­ing looks less like a space ship and more like a layer cake for 12,000 em­ploy­ees.

While Jobs has been gone for six years, his spirit was present for this iPhone X un­veil­ing. The cam­pus it­self is said to be a com­pleted ver­sion of the co-founder’s decade-old de­sign for a place where col­lab­o­ra­tion and con­tem­pla­tion would be en­cour­aged.

Hence the cir­cu­lar de­sign (the bet­ter for em­ploy­ees to bump into each other) and the ob­ses­sion with land­scap­ing (“Steve was ex­hil­a­rated, and in­spired, by the Cal­i­for­nia land­scape, by its light and its ex­pan­sive­ness. It was his fa­vorite set­ting for thought,” his wi­dow, Lau­rene Pow­ell Jobs, said in a state­ment).

The com­pet­i­tive icon­o­clast also likely got a kick out of the fact he was build­ing his dream HQ on the grounds of old Hewlett-Packard of­fices, where he once worked. Jobs’ name adorns the 1,000-seat theater that sits on the high­est point of the cam­pus, from which the main head­quar­ters ap­pears to be ris­ing from the soil. The theater is built un­der­ground and is ac­cessed by a cir­cu­lar build­ing that is all glass and thin roof.

You head be­low ei­ther by two broad stair­cases, or by tak­ing a cir­cu­lar, ro­tat­ing el­e­va­tor that also seems to scream Jobs. In­side, the au­di­to­rium has the rake of a Greek am­phithe­ater, with mod­ernist seats cov­ered in brown leather with match­ing stitch­ing.

For now, one can only imag­ine what the less-pub­lic ar­eas of Ap­ple Park will look like, in­clud­ing a 100,000-square-foot gym and a cafe­te­ria big enough to feed an army.

Say what you will about the iPhone X, but de­spite only a brief glimpse of Ap­ple Park, one could ar­gue this ac­tu­ally is the com­pany’s great­est prod­uct yet.


Me­dia mem­bers gather in the atrium of the Steve Jobs Theater, a 1,000-seat au­di­to­rium that sits be­low ground.

The pub­lic por­tion of the new 175-acre Ap­ple Park in­cludes a mas­sive fa­cil­ity with a cafe and store.

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