Architecture critic: Apple’s new mothership campus will be a retrograde cocoon

“In early June, Apple CEO Steve Jobs made what amounted to an extended architectural sales pitch when he appeared before the City Council in Cupertino to present the details of a planned new headquarters for the company he co-founded in 1976,” Christopher Hawthorne, Los Angeles Times Architecture Critic, writes. “Jobs showed renderings of a sleek, glimmering building, ring-shaped and four stories high, set gently into a lush green landscape.”

“The members of the council found the pitch persuasive, to say the least. (‘The word ‘spectacular’ would be an understatement,’ one said,)” Hawthorne writes. “You can understand why the city, especially in this economy, would want to maintain the happiest of relationships with Apple, based in Cupertino on a parcel of land — known as the Infinite Loop campus — less than a mile west of the new headquarters. Still, had the members of the council been in an even slightly more inquisitive mood, there are a number of questions they might have asked Jobs about the forthcoming building, which will hold 12,000 Apple employees. The piece of architecture he was describing for them, after all, is practically bursting with contradictions.”

“Though the planned building has a futuristic gleam — Jobs told the council ‘it’s a little like a spaceship landed’ — in many ways it is a doggedly old-fashioned proposal, recalling the 1943 Pentagon building as well as much of the suburban corporate architecture of the 1960s and ’70s,” Hawthorne writes. “And though Apple has touted the new campus as green, its sprawling form and dependence on the car make a different argument.”

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Hawthorne writes, “The new Apple campus, which the company describes as “a serene and secure environment” for its employees, keeps itself aloof from the world around it to a degree that is unusual even in a part of California dominated by office parks. The proposed building is essentially one very long hallway connecting endlessly with itself.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: One Infinite Loop.


[Thanks to MacDailyNews readers too numerous to mention individually for the heads up.]

Related articles:
Cupertino Mayor Wong: Apple’s mothership campus ‘definitely not a done deal’ – September 9, 2011
Apple’s mothership campus: What’s the message? – August 22, 2011
City of Cupertino posts further details on Apple mothership campus – August 13, 2011
Apple’s new ‘Mothership’ campus: Full details and gallery – June 16, 2011
Steve Jobs wanted to build mothership campus nearly three decades ago – June 14, 2011
Cupertino mayor: ‘There is no chance we are saying no’ to Apple Mothership (with video) – June 9, 2011
Steve Jobs presents giant 12,000 employee ‘spaceship’ campus to Cupertino City Council (with video) – June 8, 2011


    1. The egoist in the absolute sense is not the man who sacrifices others. He is the man who stands above the need of using others in any manner. He does not function through them. He is not concerned with them in any primary matter. Not in his aim, not in his motive, not in his thinking, not in his desires, not in the source of his energy. He does not exist for any other man — and he asks no other man to exist for him. This is the only form of brotherhood and mutual respect possible between men.

      1. Part of the problem of ‘Great Quote’ is that everyone has an individual personality as well as inner world that create a personal interpretation of outer reality.

        Therefore, from one person’s point of view the statement “This is the only form of brotherhood and mutual respect possible between men” sounds demented or childish. It does sound, however, to be a likely situation for men with egoist personalities.

    1. Another translation: “I wish I worked there”

      I guess this guy’s never gone into a stadium. All Apple needs to do is number each section of the doughnut. Or paint the walls a different colour. Maybe, now that Tim Cook is in charge, they’ll go retro apple and back to a rainbow of colors.

  1. Though he may be correct, there’s something funny about someone who isn’t at all involved in the process (but only speculating) who points out that Jobs’ speaks about the design as if he was involved in architecture.

    1. He’s not correct. He has no grasp of population density, Bay Area traffic patterns or public information about existing Apple infrastructure.

      1. Apple busses their own employees, they run a shuttle service from various points across the Bay Area to Apple’s current campus up the street from the new one.

      2. Bay Area population is much heavier in the South Bay, where Apple corporate is located.

      3. Most Apple employees live in the South Bay.

      4. Despite the historically heavier population, the South Bay’s traffic is much lighter than the North and East Bay varieties, especially with the horrible traffic bottlenecks created by the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges connecting to the tiny peninsula containing SF.

      5. LA Times is barely a newspaper, its basically just a daily reprint of the NY Times. I doubt they really have a leg to stand on for architecture reputation. Their are specialized and much more prestigious publications that cater to those interested in architecture.

      6. Writing a meritless negative article about a popular company is probably this guy’s biggest career highlight. However he’s trading short term hysteria for long term relevance. I’m sure this will be the last anybody ever pays attention to him.

  2. A building with a toroidal shape will inevitably cause users to become lost while walking through the walkways because the circular shape does not have a beginning and an end. Corridors will seem to stretch out interminably. It’s not very user friendly for those having to work inside. Getting from one end of the the doughnut to the other will involve a walk along its circumference when in fact the shortest path is radially through the spoke. There will be a lot of walking and searching for rooms as the point of reference in a squared building with easily definable user cues will be missing.

    1. Until we know more about the internal transport, we can’t know what it will be like to travel inside. Also I was under the impression that the center park area would be traversable. I’d much rather walk (or ride a segway) through a park to get to my next destination then through a hallway.

    2. In that space there is no ‘end’ to the doughnut; only destinations.

      I would suspect folks would have the opportunity to walk through the ‘central park’ to get to the other side if that was their desire.

    3. As you can see in prepared pictures, employees will be able to cross the inside of the building directly through at least several directions.

      No one will be confined to walk the the infinite loop, unless the weather would dictate otherwise.

    4. I expressed this sentiment when the designs first appeared and was shouted down on this site. I think the idea of a snowglobe instead of a campus is a preference for geometric shape over function, like the hockey-puck mouse. Fixing the mouse was much easier.

    5. Apple does things that are beyond the comprehension of many people.
      Including Mr. Hawthorne.

      It’s not even built. You’re just pulling that out of thin air.
      Your are not paying attention. There is that little cafeteria from 1 to 2 o’clock.
      They’ve put more thought into it then you think.

      1. “They’ve put more thought into it then you think.”

        They’ve put more thought into it THAN you think.!!!!!!!!!!!!

        Then & than are used differently by people who were taught the English language.

    6. Disagree. In this sense, the new building will work just like the current campus. Infinite Loop is a circle of large buildings (5?) surrounding a large central space. Walking around the whole loop to get somewhere would be absurd. People simply walk directly across the interior space from one building to another. Hard to imagine that any intelligent architect would design the new building any other way.

    7. You are making some rather broad assumptions.

      Just because the look is continuous outside, there is no reason to believe it has to be that way inside. I am certain floor plans will vary by department/function inside. The simple use of colors could serve as a visual cue to where you are in the building.

      You assume that an employee on one side will routinely need to go to the other side. Not likely true at all. People are going to work in their department, and one would think that Apple will put inter-dependent departments in close proximity to one another. You are also completely removing technology from the solution. Apple is a tech company, and the last time I was at their campus they used ichat video chat extensively. Presumably Face time is filling that role now.

      1. from the Talent management article on MDN:

        “Apple employees work in numerous disconnected team silos, competing against one another with little or no foresight into the purpose or intended use date of their work.”

    8. “…There will be a lot of walking and searching for rooms as the point of reference in a squared building with easily definable user cues will be missing.”

      Only if one presumes that there WILL NOT be any kind of identifying information posted in elevators, hallways or on office doors.

      Does anyone seriously think that will happen?

  3. For an architecture correspondant, he has little to nil understanding of design concepts, environmental impact, workplace integration, Apple’s culture or much else to do with modern design – apart from a hat-full of irrelevant straw man arguments. I’m sure Norman Foster is roflol
    Another hit-whore article.

  4. Actually, this design fits Apple’s culture perfectly. They are secretive and stand apart from others. Not all companies need to meld into the “collective,” as this author puts it.

    1. I’ve been to LA. Can’t recall a single building there with any architectural merit, and the LA Times has one page, that I recall, with any reference to anything in the world outside LA. The man is a fuckwit.

  5. aaah a square building which has its foundations in thousands of years of history, yet in some way would be more original than a circular shape. Only an architect critic eh.

    1. Yeah what would this critic propose? Some ugly skyscraper in the heart of the city? I personally much prefer big corporations to be distanced and separate from where I live. I don’t want to live on a corporate doorstep.

      Besides all that, in 2050 we’ll have transporter technology and all his arguments will be moot.

  6. Funny how many of Apples naysayers dismissed Steve’s designs so quickly and then watched as the sold by the billions. Steve once said to Bill Gates in an interview that the trouble with Windows was that it had no class. He was right. Perhaps the greatest hallmark of Apple is clean design. This man may be top in his field, but has he sold things by the millions? Apple did not become a company which is rapidly approaching a half trillion dollars in worth by designing junk.

    1. Teaching is a noble profession. Who else is going to give the next generation of doers the knowledge and skills they need to make their mark in the world?

      But the teaching profession and the educational system are two entirely different things. Our system rewards complacency and discourages free thinking. It’s no wonder that so many dolts become teachers.

  7. Apparently, his primary argument is not with the specifics of the design; it is with the general design philosophy of building a low-rise, sprawling, suburban corporate office park that only works well if accessed by car (as compared to urban city high-rises, where mass transit works best). He talks about the isolation this suburban sprawl entails (from your house to your car, from your car to your office, no interaction with other humans along the way), and argues that cities provide more efficient, economical, green and humane working/living environment. As a city dweller, I can clearly understand his argument (and tend to agree with it), but for the one difference. While us, city dwellers tend to encounter other humans more often on a daily basis, this doesn’t mean we also get to interact more often with others than suburbanites. What suburbia does have, city rarely does, and that is the phenomenon of neighbourhood, where people living on the same street tend to know each other, and children tend to play together. In the 20 years of living in NYC (and moving from apartment to apartment — 7 altogether now), I never knew who my next-door neighbours were (let alone others in the building), and my children never really knew any of the neighbourhood kids.

    All in all, suburban sprawl, or urban high-rises, the argument about social advantages doesn’t hold water. The others, though do show merit (efficiency, economy, green-nes).

    1. Well, he must be right. After all, he’s a big architectural critic. I’m sure he’d love to see Tim Cook riding the bus to work every day, getting up for little old ladies, and helping wipe babies’ spit off of their mom’s shoulders, and stopping the occasional thief from stealing somebody’s wallet.

      I’m assuming that’s what he means by “interaction with humans.”

    2. Jobs and Wozniak and Apple and many other innovators are products of the same suburban landscape Hawthorne seems to find so regrettable.

      Read Frank Rose’s 1989 book “West of Eden: The End of Innocence at Apple Computer” and try to imagine the events described there happening in any other environment.

    3. Ah Predrag, my pet moron…

      Allow me to once again demonstrate my mighty super highly evolved intellect…

      The suburban sprawl problem noted by the article’s author is bullshit green hyperventilation and brain dead suburban sprawl fantasy. I see you suffer from the same affliction.

      Allow me to enlighten you… Apple runs their own bus service from all ends of the Bay Area for employees, also a large percentage of Apple employees live very close to the current campus, the new one will be practically next door. It might surprise you to know that south bay traffic is significantly lower than in the north and east bay, while maintaining a significantly larger population. You and the LA Times critic (an architecture critic for a shitty newspaper – are you serious?) probably should learn a few basic facts before you go spewing absolute nonsense.

      Predrag, next time try to remember that my super brain powers have an enormous value to humanity, and you’re wasting that resource by being a total dipshit, once again.

      PS. I own you.

  8. This round building suits Apple’s culture- insular, secretive, perfectionist, etc… but what I don’t like about it is that there is no relationship with the outside. They could have had the outside of the circle be solid glass- with a harsh edge, and let the inside of the circle be more crenelated- more fine grain- to allow for the in-between places-between inside and outside… and still maintain the draconian security measures that Apple needs.
    The scale of the thing is not very human. The round space within the circle is too big to feel comfortable

    1. I know this is a bit obvious, but the contiguous round shape constitutes a wall to keep secrets in and invaders out: A Walled Garden.

      The concept fits well with Apple’s current attention to having large liquid assets. Apple is here to stay and is protecting its future.

      Considering the ENDLESS unprecedented hate mongering that has been perpetrated by anti-Apple trolls for decades, it is a natural for Apple to tend toward a defensive stance. However, defensive attitudes lead to protective, stagnant behavior. That is NOT Apple’s history nor a healthy approach. Instead Apple succeeds via an offensive and angst-driven approach to the outer reality, an attitude not well reflected in the design of the mothership. Hmm.

  9. What critics of the planned Apple mothership need to realize is that what sits on that site right now is nothing but an enormous, sprawling, paved parking lot that used to be used by HP when they owned that land. Turning that paved wasteland into Apple’s beautiful and heavily tree-lined mothership will be an improvement over what’s already on that site, no question.

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