Quite a few people have commented on the recent proposal by Apple to build a kind of suburban spaceship headquarters (pictured above) in Cupertino, CA. Alexandra Lange at Design Observer has noted that suburban HQ’s are decidedly retro, and Lloyd Alter at Treehugger is reminded of the passage from Lord of the Rings, “One ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them” and predicts the end of the creative giant (Apple, not Sauron.)
There is something kind of creepy about the uber-slick aesthetic Apple has successfully applied to their gadgets and retail stores being applied to such a massive structure. With a diameter similar to the Pentagon, the pop cultural reference it brought to mind for me was Revenge of the Sith. But that’s all totally subjective. What struck me most forcefully was the difference between this particular design solution and the solution proposed by another global tech company trying to house a rapidly growing workforce: Google.
First, let’s review the Apple proposal. The building, though only 4 stories in height is massive and is designed to provide space for 12,000 employees. Presenting the project to Cupertino City Council (see the video here), Steve Jobs points out that the current site is only 20% green space and that their proposal will increase this to 80% landscape, achieved by placing “most” of the parking underground. I put “most” in quotes because in addition to underground parking below the main building there is a huge above-ground parking structure proposed alongside I-280. Jobs says this parking structure is 4 stories because they want everything on the site to be “human scaled,” but one wonders how a parking structure that appears to be 2,000 feet long can be considered in any way approachable. To give you a sense of the scale of parking required in places like Cupertino (where everyone drives everywhere, for everything)- Apple will reduce the surface parking by 90%. It’s a laudable achievement, but still leaves 1,200 surface parking spaces on the site. Another scale adjustment for you, the “café” in the new building serves 3,000 people at a sitting.