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Apple hasn’t had too many knockout new products in this decade, but, then, they’ve been busy, building a $5 billion headquarters for themselves in Cupertino, CA in fulfillment of Jobs’ last vision. Steven Levy takes the tour of the nearly completed circular main building in Wired.
It’s kind of a Hank Scorpio campus as in a 1970s sci-fi movie filmed at Malibu Creek:
Though he always professed to loathe nostalgia, Jobs based many of his ideas on his favorite features of the Bay Area of his youth. “His briefing was all about California—his idealized California,” says Stefan Behling, a Foster partner who became one of the project leads. The site Apple had bought was an industrial park, largely covered by asphalt, but Jobs envisioned hilly terrain, with sluices of walking paths. He again turned to Stanford for inspiration by evoking the Dish, a popular hiking area near the campus where rolling hills shelter a radio telescope.
My impression is that a fair number of billionaires, such as Jobs, are homeboys who really like where they grew up. Jobs insisted on planting orchards on the campus like Silicon Valley had when he was a lad.
One interesting thing is that it sounds like they’re taking a next step that I’ve long expected: designer parking garages. It’s striking that when you visit zillion dollar projects like the Getty Center Museum in Sepulveda Pass, which even has its own monorail, you still wind up parking in a claustrophobic, ominous garage like everywhere else. But not at Apple HQ:
During my tour, when we pass through an aboveground parking garage, [Sir Jonny] Ive quivers with enthusiasm as he describes what we’re seeing. He points out how smooth the edges are on the concrete beams and how carefully molded the curves are at the rectangular building’s corners, like perfectly formed round-rects on a dialog box. Furthermore, infrastructure like water pipes and electrical conduits is hidden in the beams, so the whole thing doesn’t look like a basement. “It’s not that we’re using expensive concrete,” Ive says, defining what he calls the transformative nature of this parking garage.
Why not use expensive concrete in the parking garages of a $5 billion project? Seriously, everybody starts and finishes their workday in the company parking garage, so why not make it a little nicer than a parking garage at LAX?
“It’s the care and development of a design idea and then being resolute—no, we’re not going to just do the easy, least-path-of-resistance sort of standardized form work.”
One of Parkinson’s Laws is that:
“During a period of exciting discovery or progress there is no time to plan the perfect headquarters. The time for that comes later, when all the important work has been done. Perfection, we know, is finality; and finality is death.”
But Apple has surprised me before, so …