On December 6, 2011 Apple executives updated their proposal for the new “Apple Campus 2” project in the city of Cupertino, CA.
The new 5.32 million square foot facility will become home base for 11,000 employees. Located on a 175 acre site in the city of Cupertino, CA the donut shaped structure has an outer radius of 760’ with a huge open air interior courtyard (donut hole) with a radius of 581’.
When originally proposed to the city council in June, Steve Jobs referred to the structure as, “a little like a spaceship landed” but let’s face it, it really looks more like a donut than a spaceship. But hey, who doesn’t like donuts?
Perhaps Los Angeles Times Architecture Critic Christopher Hawthorne doesn’t like donuts. He created a stir when he referred to the design as, “a Retrograde Cocoon.” He went on to call the building “old –fashioned” and likened it to the 50’s & 60’s design of the Pentagon. Maybe Hawthorne would feel better if we referred to the project as a “bagel.” Do they like bagels at the Times?
While it has been quietly kept under wraps, the architect of record turns out to be Foster+Partners; a well respected architecture firm with offices all over the world. Curiously, as of this printing you still can find no reference to the Apple Campus project on their website. But this is no surprise. Secrecy has always been standard operating procedure for Steve Jobs.
The truth is that the design of the building is anything but “old-fashioned”. Partially underground; Photo-voltaic cells on the roof; Seismic Isolation Pads; Extensive day lighting techniques; Jogging Trails and a Fitness Club are just some of the features of the enormous facility.
The design has been accused of being, “out of human scale” but I would have to disagree with this completely. Human scale is not defined by what someone in an airplane would see if they are flying over the structure. Human scale is determined by close proximity and lines of sight.
By examination of the plans it is easy to see that sight lines have been carefully manipulated through the use of landscaping and curving walkways. Since the building itself is only 4 stories above grade, and curvature of the structure limits the amount of mass that one can view at any given time, from a pedestrian perspective (which is the only view that a person could experience the building) scale of the structure is not only appropriate, but very well tailored.
If issues or faults can be found with this design, it is not in the esthetics of the architecture. With an outer circumference of nearly a mile (4,773 feet) and in interior courtyard diameter of 1,162 feet I suspect that employees and/or visitors will be issued roller skates to move around the building. The major flaw with this structure is the shear distance that exists between departments.
In normal (large scale) corporate office buildings, the distance between departments is broken up vertically, and elevators are typically used to move between departments. The new Apple facility uses both vertical elements and long horizontal corridors. Of course, shortcuts can be taken across the interior courtyard, and certain divisions could be located in logical proximity, but no matter how you slice it, the people in this building are doing an awful lot of walking.
Maybe that is why there are no fat people working for Apple … but I digress.
After a full review, I can really find only two other issues with the design. First, this building is going to generate a lot of tourism. Whether Apple wants to admit it or not, the public is going to want to see this facility. They might as well plan for this now and include a visitor center that is large enough to handle the traffic. The center currently proposed is way to small.
Second, with all this space you would think that the Corporate Auditorium could have been worked in to the main facility. Instead, it is located far away, with access by a long underground tunnel. This gives the impression that its location was an afterthought, rather than a planned design element. Although one can not help but notice a similarity of the layout with that of a computer hard drive – if viewed in plan view from a distance.
Other than that, the design of the structure exhibits the kind of style & environmentalism that one would expect from someone like Steve Jobs. It is a (mostly) efficient design that provides for adequate day-lighting and connection with the elements. With proper interior design, this structure might just be able to “take off” after all.
Two Thumbs Up from The Critical Architect.