Apple Park is almost complete; it is still beautiful and still wrong

peeking through windows at apple HQ
Video screen capture Peeking through windows at Apple Park

Duncan Sinfield has released latest drone flyover of Apple Park and it is not very exciting; all the action is now happening inside as they get ready to move in. I suspect that it may be one of the last that he does; Apple is notoriously private and will find some way to stop this, either by law (this kind of thing is now illegal in Canada) or by anti-drone devices of some kind. But it does catch a few neat glimpses into the lobby and wow, there are a lot of trees.

And now that it is almost done, the critics are piling on. Grist notes that Apple’s shiny new office park isn’t that cool and picks up on Adam Roger's post in Wired: If you care about cities, Apple’s new campus sucks.

But … one more one more thing. You can’t understand a building without looking at what’s around it—its site, as the architects say. From that angle, Apple’s new HQ is a retrograde, literally inward-looking building with contempt for the city where it lives and cities in general.

Welcome to the party. Ever since the new Apple headquarters were unveiled in 2011 we have been dubious and critical. I called it “anti-urban, anti-social, anti-environmental and probably anti-Apple. And, that it could signal the end of Apple as a creative juggernaut.” Don’t read the comments.

parking entry© apple

When Tim Cook called it "the greenest building on the planet" we looked at the parking and noted:

This post is illustrated with renderings of the new headquarters, starting with the multilane tunnel leading to underground parking for 10,500 cars, or one space for every 1.35 projected employees. That is an insanely great parking ratio, if you love parking Audis and Porsches. In other green buildings i have admired, the ratio is 0 per employee.

IBM research© Eero Saarinen, IBM Manufacturing and Training Facility (1958)

Rogers at Wired also notes that the building is a throwback to the suburban office parks of the fifties:

By moving out of downtown skyscrapers and building in the suburbs, corporations were reflecting 1950s ideas about cities—they were dirty, crowded, and unpleasantly diverse. The suburbs, though, were exclusive, aspirational, and architectural blank slates. (Also, buildings there are easier to secure and workers don’t go out for lunch where they might hear about other, better jobs.) It was corporatized white flight.

apple parkA spaceship lands in suburbia/Video screen capture

But there is another factor: civil defence. Getting those companies out into the suburbs meant there were a lot more smaller targets to hit. And in fact, we have called it a throwback to 1939 and Futurama at the New York World’s Fair.

In the end, I really do think that it will be bad for Apple and their creativity. Albert Camus wrote: “All great deeds and all great thoughts have a ridiculous beginning. Great works are often born on a street corner or in a restaurant's revolving door.” This building doesn’t even have corners.

In another early post about the building from five years ago, I wrote:

I suppose it does fit with Apple's culture of secrecy, of designing closed systems, of making perfect objects unlike any in the world, all sealed up tight and inaccessible to anyone but Apple.

So many other of Apple's ideas have been copied slavishly, from their computers and phones to their stores and their marketing. I just hope that this one isn't; it remains a throwback to what Alexandra Lange called " an inward-looking, hermetic, heterotopic corporate world."

I do not think anything has changed.

Tags: Apple Inc | Green Building

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