What We Learned About Apple Park From the Keynote Intro

Video screen capture Apple. Apple

Like Kremlinology in the cold war, you take what you can get.

So far as I know, the architectural critics have not been let loose in Apple Park yet. Last year, when it was almost complete, I wrote that "I am going to stop complaining about it." I still hate the planning ideas behind it, but "Norman Foster is one of the world’s great architects and he has designed a masterpiece here. Let’s leave it at that."

But the first three minutes of the latest Apple keynote were their usual humorous bit, this time a Mission Impossible to get something important from the main building to the Steve Jobs Theater, and it is really the first look I have really had at the building interior. Here are some of the things I learned:

It's really seriously minimalist.

corridor around apple Park

Apple/Video screen capture It's wonderful how they have put the public circulation on the exterior, instead of a bunch of private offices. A place to sit might be nice.

They've fixed the glass.

entering stair

Apple/Video screen capture We wrote earlier about how Apple employees keep walking into those gorgeous glass walls at Apple Park and noted that this was probably a building code violation. As you can see here, there are now little gray rectangles near eye level.

They built really beautiful stairs that people will want to use.

taking the stairs

Apple /Video screen capture

We have written often about how buildings should be designed with attractive stairs. There is a whole building certification system now, Fitwell, set up by Michael Bloomberg, who said "physical activity and healthy eating are the two most important factors in reducing obesity." Good stairs are a big part of this.

They built a big dining area that people won't want to use.

lunch area

Apple /Video screen capture Or at least, people will want to get there early to get the few chairs. Really, benches get uncomfortable after a while; my high school cafeteria looked more comfortable. I guess they want everyone to get back to work fast.

I'd take my lunch outside...

landscaping at Apple Park

Apple /Video screen capture It's not yet a year old, but the landscaping looks just fantastic.

...If it weren't for all the leafblowers!

Leaf blowers

Apple/ Leaf blowers in action/Video screen capture Seriously, fifteen random leaf-blowers going all at once and pointing in all directions, in what is supposed to be the greenest building ever. Somebody had better look into building management -- it's one thing to design a green building, but it's what people do after that matters. Shocking. And loud.

The theater looks pretty good, too.

Theater roof

Apple /Video screen capture I originally called this place "just another gas guzzling suburban office park right out of the 1960s," but then noted that it was probably going to be "astonishingly beautiful and a technical tour-de-force." And one of the most tour-de-force-ish engineering accomplishments in the joint is the roof over the lobby to the Steve Jobs Theater. It has no visible means of support, just sitting on that curved glass. It can do that because it is actually a giant 44 slice carbon fiber pie that was made in Dubai of all places.

Apple park

Apple /Video screen capture

When Apple Park was first unveiled, I was seriously negative. I quoted Albert Camus who wrote that "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." And Jane Jacobs: "Old ideas can sometimes use new buildings. New ideas must use old buildings. And of course, Richard Florida on "spiky cities where the creative class meet; because creative people like hanging out with other creative people."

I am not sure that any of that has changed, but it is beautiful.