New Yorker architecture critic: Apple’s proposed Mothership campus is ‘scary’ and ‘troubling’

“With Apple’s characteristic secrecy, the company hasn’t officially released the design, or announced that the architect [for its proposed new campus] is Foster + Partners, the London-based firm known for its super-sleek, elegant, exquisitely detailed buildings,” Paul Goldberger writes for The New Yorker. But images of Apple’s future home, to be built on a campus that it has taken over from Hewlett-Packard, are all over the place, because plans must be presented to the local authorities in Cupertino, who understandably are falling all over themselves with delight.”

“Foster has proposed a gargantuan glass-and-metal ring, four stories high, with a hole in the middle a third of a mile wide. The building, which will house upwards of twelve thousand employees, will have a circumference of a mile, and will be so huge that you won’t really be able to perceive its shape, except from the air,” Goldberger writes. “Like everything Foster does, it will be sleek and impeccably detailed, but who wants to work in a gigantic donut? Steve Jobs, speaking to the Cupertino City Council, likened the building to a spaceship. But buildings aren’t spaceships, any more than they are iPhones.”

“So why is Foster’s design troubling, maybe even a bit scary? The genius of the iPhone, MacBook, iPad, and other Apple products is that they are tools that function well and happen to be breathtakingly beautiful. A building is also a tool, but of a very different sort. In architecture, scale—the size of various parts of a building in proportion to one another and to the size of human beings—counts for a lot. With this building, there seems to be very little sense of any connection to human size,” Goldberger writes. “Flexibility is a hallmark of the iPad, and it counts in architecture, too, but how much flexibility is there in a vast office governed entirely by geometry? For all of Foster’s sleekness, this Apple building seems more like a twenty-first-century version of the Pentagon.”

Rendering of Apple's "Mothership" campus proposed for Cupertino, CA
Rendering of Apple's "Mothership" campus proposed for Cupertino, CA

Goldberger writes, “It’s said that Steve Jobs considers this building to be a key part of his legacy, which would be unfortunate, because it would mean that his last contribution to his company might well be his least meaningful.”

More in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: This much is sure: It’s one infinite loop.

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

Related articles:
Apple’s infinite loop: Mothership campus impressive but enigmatic – September 14, 2011
Architecture critic: Apple’s new mothership campus will be a retrograde cocoon – September 12, 2011
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. Well put Joe. His contribution is a criticism. It was an empty insult which leaves one wondering what his point is. Just sounds bitter with a desire to feel good about his opinion. I don’t know that many will see his viewpoint.

  1. With out knowing anything about the modes of travel within the building, all these comments on how useless it is are moot. There could be segways, people movers, some kinda tram system. We just don’t know. Also I’m betting the folks that need to work closely with each other will be placed close to each other.

    I notice the architectural critics never posit another idea of how to get this many people into the same building.

    1. The last I heard was that Steve Jobs did not like Dean Kamen…so no Segway’s. I also heard that he does not like Jeff Bezos either.

      But imagine this…a rotating outer ring inside the entire building. It is a people mover throughout….always moving and it is magnetically levitated. 😀

    2. Also I’m betting the folks that need to work closely with each other will be placed close to each other.

      EXACTLY! This what the idiots having a conniption over this design don’t seem to understand. If, instead of one large building, Apple was to build multiple conventional buildings, would that be any more or less convenient? Of course not! But because it is being built as one structure, quick access from one part of the structure to any other part is for some reason perceived as essential. It’s not. Not at all.

      Do these same architects throw a hissy fit over the Pentagon?


  2. What a complete idiot. This building will attract people from all over the world. Not just architecture students but regular Apple fans like me. This building will make history. Goldberger not.

  3. Sooo, Goldberger is sore about this? What does he want? A square tower? Sorry dude, perhaps you are happy with a beige computer box but if you haven’t noticed, Apple does things differently.

    Wonder what whiny thoughts he had about Apple’s glowing cube at the Fifth Ave store?

  4. It would be cool to have little round Cupertino-pellet Apple Stores all around the country. If Verizon can buy land and build its own separate stores just being a middle-man, then Apple could build their own little mini-spaceship stores with trees and
    park benches inside…Gore would be delighted and could claim it was his idea to be so green. If women were straight lines, then men would have no interest…curves are in…doughnuts?…maybe.

  5. I am an architect, and in my opinion architectural critics should always be taken with a grain of salt.

    If the structure looked like a wrecked spaceship, partly hurried in the ground with demolished looking pieces scattered around the site, then it might get rave reviews from architectural “critics”.

  6. Litle people with no credentials are always ready to gripe about the opinions of those in authority. Paul Goldberger has the right, as the world’s preeninent architectural critic, to publish his opinions in the magazine that pays him to publish his opinions. Why do you object to people having opinions that differ from yours? Show us your credentials, please.

    1. “Litle (sic) people”? “…those in authority”? What planet are you living on and who made you an arbiter of the importance of people or the validity of credentials? To the extent that the building is art, it is the public’s job to perceive it, assimilate it, and critique it. Mr. Goldberger’s opinion matters not at all. It’s nobody’s job to tell the public what they think, or may think about anything. Please take your inflated ego, and your fan-boyism for Mr. Goldberger elsewhere.

    2. Credentials? I have more credentials than Paul does simply for bothering to examine the campus in more depth than “OMG A CIRCLE”.

      How can you even kind of take him seriously after he writes this gem(let alone anything else he wrote)?

      “But buildings aren’t spaceships, any more than they are iPhones.”

      Really, Paul? Somebody needs to tell this man that an awful lot of buildings actually are shaped like an iPhone, aka, shaped like a rectangle.

      Credentials indeed.

    3. 1. Your lack of spelling credentials make your comments hilarious, but kind of worthless.

      2. “World’s preeninent (LOLsic; see 1.) architectural critic”? Do they hand out a crown when they award that title? He’s a preservation hack, which explains his anti-modern bias. He’s a critic, one of thousands.

      3. Re: credentials to critique – Steve Jobs has created more beautiful, functional things on the can than Goldberger has created in his life. If we’re talking credentials, I’ll take Jobs’ *creation* over Goldberger’s *trolling* any day.

      It’s obvious you and your horrible spelling have stumbled into the comment section of the wrong site. Don’t let the door hit you where the big guy split you.

  7. Mr. Goldberger is much more accustomed to buildings that are designed vertically due to the lack of land in New York. But those skyscrapers are not models of mobility to the occupants. They need lots of elevators, the taller the building, the more elevators. There are a lot of alternatives to elevators on a horizontally designed office building. Let’s wait and see what Foster & Partners come up with before condemning the concept.

  8. Can’t say I agree with him on the appearance, which I like very much.

    With Foster’s award-winning airport credentials, I reckon access and internal transit arrangements will likely be state of the art.

    And the low-energy and green aspects to the site development really deserve applause – or at least respect.

  9. It’s ‘scary’ and ‘troubling’ how stupid these architecture critics are.

    Despite having a circumference of a mile, the ring shape gives it a jawdroppingly small footprint for something that can house 12,000 employees. This also allows it to be quite vertically short, so it doesn’t tower over the skyline like an eyesore. The large amount of glass allows it to be naturally lit for the most part during the day. It replaces a whole complex of buildings, and much of the area will be re-forested as a result.

    So yeah, it’s just a big ugly circle governed by geometry and it doesn’t factor in any other considerations. It has no conceivable purpose, it’s really nothing but vanity project for Steve Jobs.

    That last paragraph was sarcasm. I know everybody with an I.Q. above 50 realizes that, but I just thought I’d point it out for the benefit of very “special” people like Paul Goldberger.

  10. Foster+ are also the architects for Spaceport America in New Mexico. When the illustrations of their design were made public they were met with much public scorn and to be honest it wasn’t what I was expecting either.

    But having watched the construction of Spaceport America take place for the last year the design philosophy is becoming more clear.

    The facility is going to be a beautiful structure housing aircraft and spacecraft while not being a jarring visual distraction from the surrounding desert.

    To quote Doonesbury:
    A critic knows the price but not the value.

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.