The Eye of the Fish

June 9, 2011

Infinite Loops

If you’re stuck in boring meetings at the Council all day long in Wellington, then my commiserations. Those hearings can get a little long and tedious.

Imagine then, if your day was perked up by a personal visit from Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, who on Tuesday 7 June popped into his local Council office in Cupertino, California, to present the plans for a new office campus in the town. Given that Jobs, on just the previous day, had greeted 5000 of the Apple evangelistas at the annual web developer’s conference, and launched the new iPhone software, new iCloud software, and unleashed the Lion onto the Mac faithful; and considering that the guy is still looking painfully thin due to his battle with pancreatic cancer, it was intriguing to see him stand up before the small Council committee and explain his scheme for a new office campus.

Jobs explained that due to Hewlett-Packard downsizing, he had been able to purchase 150 acres of land – basically a large chunk of it now asphalted carparks and tired office campus buildings un-needed by HP, and Apple planned to rip it all out and start again.

Mr Jobs’ presentation to the Council was almost as unflappable and steadily paced as the presentations he does to the Mac faithful that fill the Moscone Centre, and was filled with similar short and pithy facts about how much better Apple campus 2.0 was going to be compared to HP 1.0 and I think he may well be entirely right.

Combined with a reduction of asphalt by 90% and an increase of landscaping form 20% of the current site to 80%, the new building is going to be a giant torus shape – a doughnut for you Dunkin fans out there. The building will hold up to 12,000 to 13,000 people, and is “3.1 million sq feet” in area – that’s about 288,000 m2 and spread out over 4 floors, equals a massive 72,000 m2 per floor. The Mayor of Cupertino (where Apple has been based at, since, forever), was fair gushing with excitement, although some of the other Councillors asked the usual stupid layperson comments like: are there going to be fire exits, or will you give the town free WiFi (as Jobs says: we pay taxes, and you do the WiFi. But if you want, we could skip the taxes and give you free WiFi instead).

The Apple company is apparently currently spread all over the town in bits and pieces of offices, and wants to concentrate their workforce on just a couple of sites – they are still going to keep the existing office campus at 1 Infinite Loop, and then build this one just a few blocks away. Carparks will be reduced, and be underground. Bicycles and clean-burning natural gas buses are also part of the Apple dream, due to be opened in 2015. The Mayor called the building the most elegant head quarters in the US, while Jobs, with characteristic understated eloquence, said that he thought it might just be the best office building in the world.

The building is circular in plan, and even for such big floor plates, the windows are going to be from curved glass as well. Jobs very carefully did not mention who the architects were – you might assume that they would be the same architects as the Apple Stores (Cywinski Jackson or something like that), but there are strong rumours going around that the building is designed by another shaven headed poloneck wearer as well: have a gander at this link. Is it? Could it be true?

9 - 06 - 11

It looks very much like gchq which was done by the other architect who does all of the apple stores – gensler.

“Steve Jobs”
9 - 06 - 11

“It’s a pretty amazing building. It’s a little like a spaceship landed. It’s got this gorgeous courtyard in the middle… It’s a circle. It’s curved all the way around. If you build things, this is not the cheapest way to build something. There is not a straight piece of glass in this building. It’s all curved. We’ve used our experience making retail buildings all over the world now, and we know how to make the biggest pieces of glass in the world for architectural use. And, we want to make the glass specifically for this building here. We can make it curve all the way around the building… It’s pretty cool.”

9 - 06 - 11

It’s sheer scale and purity of form, not to mention it’s distancing from existing urban fabric, kind of gives it a creepy authoritarian presence. Another shift toward corporate overlordism?

Googleplex is something else though (not sure what exactly)…

9 - 06 - 11

Is this a circular formed Pentagon building? I agree with m-d it suggests a military view of the world. I don’t think this is good urban design. And suggest a very inward looking view of the world. How does it relate to the other parts of urban fabric of this city? It raises more questions than answers. Also would you like to work in a place like this?

9 - 06 - 11

I’m torn between “that looks cool” and “I wouldn’t like to work there”. My office is on Lambton Quay and I can pop out at lunch time to shop, have lunch with friends, or stroll over to the waterfront. There are dozens of places to buy food and a nice buzz from all the people. By contrast, this Apple building looks like a modern monastery with its workers kept away from the surrounding world. It reinforces the idea that Apple is some sort of cult.

9 - 06 - 11

The modern workplace mantra says that having everyone on one floor is better for workplace productivity, hence the move away from skyscrapers (as per old black BNZ tower) toasted groundscrapers (as per new white BNZ on Aotea Quay). Think of this as a $2billion version of the ultimate groundscraper. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that it looks like giant version of aniPod scroll wheel either. The only real point anyone has raised against the building is that it might take a while to get from one side to another, although with extensive underground carparking and other facilities, possibly even an underground train or pod system, I figure that won’t be all that much of a problem.
While Gensler did indeed do the new GCHQ building in Cheltenham, the roof shots of that building show a few fiddly bits that wouldn’t go down well with Jobs. My money is on Foster and Partners to deliver this – they have already delivered a very successful new campus building in Stanford, just down the highway. There would be a perfect symbolism of Jobs and Foster collaborating on this project. With the experience Fosters have gained from building Masdar (new Eco-friendly city in Abu Dhabi) they would have some very relevant expertise

10 - 06 - 11

more commentary here

10 - 06 - 11

Ha! The bit I like from that is the quote from the local architectural critic:
“San Jose architecture critic Alan Hess also questioned the function of “this huge circle.” “How are people inside going to communicate?” he asked. “Are they going to be walking around miles and miles of corridors to get to a conference room or use an internal tram system? Maybe they will rely on computer connections.”

Aaah, yes Mr Hess. Seeing as it is Apple, there is a good chance that they may occasionally rely on computer connections – a novel idea.

13 - 06 - 11

more commentary.
I have no energy nor attitude to offer original thoughts.