The Eye of the Fish

October 6, 2011

Insanely Great

Rest in Peace Steve Jobs.

Sad news today, but not unexpected. One of the more focused minds of the business world just ended today, with the death of the man who has changed the way we interact with the world. Steve has been suffering from pancreatic cancer for a number of years now, and his frail body could no longer go on – as he said in his resignation speech from Apple in August, “i said i would tell you when i can no longer run the company – that day has come.”

In terms of architecture, we find a legacy primarily in the world of computer architecture, with the refinement and minimalisation and stripping away of the unnecessary from the designs of the products that most of us use everyday. His house, that we blogged about, has not been built, and now probably never will be. His new office, the giant torus of spaceship that is due to land in Cupertino, undoubtedly will be built, with Foster and Partners pouring out the plans as we speak. That office building will be his architectural legacy – but the greatest thing he leaves behind is a world free from clutter, both physically, virtually, and mentally.

Last words go to Steve himself, as he said in his Stanford University graduation speech a few years back:
“No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

Storming Norman
7 - 10 - 11

“With my colleagues I would like to pay tribute to Steve Jobs. Like so many millions our lives have been profoundly and positively influenced by the innovations pioneered by Steve and Apple, names which are inseparable.
We were greatly privileged to know Steve as a person, as a friend and in every way so much more than a client. Steve was an inspiration and a role model. He encouraged us to develop new ways of looking at design to reflect his unique ability to weave backwards and forwards between grand strategy and the minutiae of the tiniest of internal fittings. For him no detail was small in its significance and he would be simultaneously questioning the headlines of our project together whilst he delved into its fine print.
He was the ultimate perfectionist and demanded of himself as he demanded of others. We are better as individuals and certainly wiser as architects through the experience of the last two years and more of working for him. His participation was so intense and creative that our memory will be that of working with one of the truly great designers and mentors.”
Norman Foster
Chairman and Founder of Foster + Partners

On behalf of…
7 - 10 - 11

“I’m writing this letter on an iMac. I just got off a call on my iPhone 4. I still have a beloved old MacBook, but I’m cheating on it with an iPad 2. This is not a paid testimonial. Like a lot of people connected to the design world, I’m merely a devoted member of the cult of Apple. The sad news at summer’s end that Steve Jobs was resigning as the company’s CEO felt like a watershed moment for our culture. It got me thinking, too, about Jobs’s complicated relationship to architecture.

Not long ago, I visited an architect’s studio, a pristine white loft with long rows of work tables topped by a battalion of gorgeous iMacs. What other brand of computer could such an office possibly employ? The firm is known for serene, crisply detailed minimalist buildings; naturally, the principal architect is a devotee of Apple. He’s someone who would deeply appreciate products so beautifully designed that they express exactly what they do, nothing more. The idea behind Apple isn’t that form follows function, but that each object is the ultimate integration of both. Or as Yeats might well have put it, had he beheld an iPod, “How can we know the dancer from the dance?”

Yet there is, as you know, a flaw in that seeming perfection, at least for the field of architecture. For years, Macs had to be adapted to run some of the top software architects use. As much as practitioners might like the beauty and artful operation of Apple’s computers, many have opted to equip their offices with PCs. (The iPad, on the other hand, is turning up more and more at client meetings and building sites.)

We can’t forget that Jobs has been a notable architectural patron. He commissioned Peter Bohlin, the 2010 AIA Gold Medalist, to create Apple’s retail stores, including the stunning iconic glass cube for the New York flagship on Fifth Avenue. Jobs has been fascinated by design at least since his days as a college dropout. In a commencement address at Stanford in 2005, Jobs, who grew up as a working-class kid, talked about the influence of a calligraphy class he’d audited at Reed College. He learned about typeface and later would carefully consider the fonts for the first Mac. He dreamed of encasing Apple I in blonde koa wood. When he started the company NeXT, he got the celebrated graphic designer Paul Rand to create the logo. At Apple, he has regularly haunted the studio of his chief designer, Jonathan Ive.

But some of Jobs’s decisions about architecture have been controversial. He hired Bohlin to design a 6,000-square-foot house for his family—but wanted to build it on the site of his 14-bedroom onetime bachelor pad, a 1926 mansion in Woodside, California, by architect George Washington Smith, the godfather of Spanish Colonial Revival. Preservationists were outraged that he was eager to tear it down. After a long legal tug-of-war, during which Jobs let the house badly deteriorate, he was allowed to demolish it last February.

And his latest architectural adventure, the design of a gigantic new doughnut-shaped headquarters for Apple, is already drawing mixed reviews. At the Cupertino, California, city council meeting where he unveiled the scheme last June, the ferociously secretive Jobs didn’t even mention the name of the architect—though the Foster + Partners logo was on the drawings. In the Los Angeles Times, critic Christopher Hawthorne called the 2.8 million-square-foot building for 12,000 Apple employees “doggedly old-fashioned,” akin to the 20th-century corporate office parks that turned away from urban vitality.

I can imagine the conversations between Jobs and Norman Foster, the Lord of the Ring. Steve would love hearing about Foster’s early mentor, the genius innovator Buckminster Fuller, who was a hero, too, of Stewart Brand, the guru behind the 1960s Whole Earth Catalog. In that same Stanford speech, Jobs cited Brand’s “bible.” It was, he said, “sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: It was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.”

Neat tools, great notions—those simple words could be Jobs’s legacy. While Apple fanatics everywhere fret about the company’s future without him, architects especially can appreciate the Jobs ethos: How a design looks is inseparable from how it works.”

Cathleen McGuigan, Editor in Chief, Architectural Record

10 - 10 - 11

Time now for a comment from the man himself, made a few years ago, relating to his thoughts on design:

““We don’t have good language to talk about this kind of thing,” Mr. Jobs replied. “In most people’s vocabularies, design means veneer. It’s interior decorating. It’s the fabric of the curtains and the sofa. But to me, nothing could be further from the meaning of design. Design is the fundamental soul of a man-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers of the product or service. The iMac is not just the color or translucence or the shape of the shell. The essence of the iMac is to be the finest possible consumer computer in which each element plays together. … That is the furthest thing from veneer. It was at the core of the product the day we started. This is what customers pay us for — to sweat all these details so it’s easy and pleasant for them to use our computers. We’re supposed to be really good at this. That doesn’t mean we don’t listen to customers, but it’s hard for them to tell you what they want when they’ve never seen anything remotely like it.”

21 - 10 - 11

“CUPERTINO, CA—Steve Jobs, the visionary co-founder of Apple Computers and the only American in the country who had any clue what the fuck he was doing, died Wednesday at the age of 56.
“We haven’t just lost a great innovator, leader, and businessman, we’ve literally lost the only person in this country who actually had his shit together and knew what the hell was going on,” a statement from President Barack Obama read in part, adding that Jobs will be remembered both for the life-changing products he created and for the fact that he was able to sit down, think clearly, and execute his ideas—attributes he shared with no other U.S. citizen.
“This is a dark time for our country, because the reality is none of the 300 million or so Americans who remain can actually get anything done or make things happen. Those days are over.”
Obama added that if anyone could fill the void left by Jobs it would probably be himself, but said that at this point he honestly doesn’t have the slightest notion what he’s doing anymore.”
Courtesy of the Onion, of course….