Apple’s Spaceship Building

by Dave Michels

Today, everyone learned about Apple’s new planned headquarters, a giant spaceship style building designed to accommodate 12,000-13,000 employees in four stories. An impressive undertaking by any measure, and as Jobs says quite possibly the “best office building in the world.” The building, in Cupertino (known primarily for its font), will be located on property that Apple acquired from HP. Prior to HP, the land was an apricot orchard.

About the Project:

  • Not a straight piece of glass in the building
  • A “leading arborist” (arboriculturist) from Stanford is designing the treescape
  • Four story building and parking structure, but most of the parking capacity will be underground
  • Will provide its own energy (natural gas based?) and Apple will use the city grid for backup power.
  • Large auditorium and fitness center included in the circular building.
  • 12,000-13,000 person capacity – up 40% from the capacity of the HP buildings in replaces. This is possible because the square footage increases 20% to 3.1 million sqft (at what point does a foot become the wrong unit of measure?)
  • Meanwhile the landscaping increases 350%, largely due to a huge circular outdoor atrium and most of the parking is now underground (under tree).
  • Apple plans about 6,000 trees on the property, up 60% (including some apricot trees).
  • Plans to be submitted soon, break ground next year, and move in during 2015.
A Few Thoughts: 
  • Apple is clearly a progressive and innovative company. But I keep reading about progressive and innovative companies that are downsizing office space in lieu of remote workers. There is no doubt this is an impressive project architecturally, but is it really the blueprint of the future, or an obsolete model from the past? FlexJobs reports “In telecommuting particularly we had an over 400 percent increase of jobs our researchers would find in the last three years alone”
  • Ironically, just a few days earlier, Jobs unveiled iCloud. In Nick Carr’s cloud computing bible, The Big Switch, he suggests that a company running its own data center is as silly as a company today generating its own electricity.
  • The building has no buttons (Jobs hates buttons).
  • The square footage is only increased 20%, but the occupancy is increased 40%. Considering there is a giant auditorium in the plans, that would suggest Apple offices are much smaller than HP offices (amazing what some 50 years has done to personal space).
  • Steve downplayed any potential traffic impact, insisting there won’t be an impact. 1) traffic is an issue everywhere in the Bay Area, 2) Apple is increasing human capacity 20% and 40% at this address, 3) Apple big events like their developer conference earlier this week in San Francisco will move to this new auditorium. 4) 13,000 people leaving a single address at the end of the day. Me thinks there could be a traffic issue.
  • No mention of solar panels at all! Just a few years ago, Apple was named one of the worst environmental hi-tech firms, and it worked hard to shed that image. The company reduced its packaging and made several product changes with more environmental responsibility. A huge 12k-13k person office building (in sunny California) with its own fossil fuel power plant really could not include solar panels?
  • There is no Apple store in Cupertino? WTF?
  • Talk about having the city council in the palm of your hand.
  • Steve makes things human. He shares childhood anecdotes, points out the 4 story building is “human scale”, and shares that both his parents died from smoking. When a council member says Cupertino is proud of Apple, he responds with “we are proud to be in Cupertino too.” He’s Batman.
  • The video (below) posted earlier today has currently over 163,000 views. It’s an impressive building, obviously in the works for some time, but now everyone knows it. Any other senior executive would send someone else to city council. Steve not only comes personally, but along with an impressive video.
  • This is no longer a city issue, thanks to YouTube and the Internet, the plans have been reviewed and approved by everyone that didn’t matter. Any council member with different ideas doesn’t stand a chance.
  • Although there is no possible way Cupertino would object to this, Steve did politely remind the city council that he could move Apple to Mountain View and cease being “Cupertino’s largest tax payer.” Seemed a bit uncalled for.
  • It isn’t entirely clear why Apple or Steve was even there. Apple has not submitted plans, there was nothing to approve, and the council members seemed already familiar with the project.