Apple’s New Campus: An Exclusive Look Inside the Mothership

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From the day Jobs presented to the Cupertino City Council, digital renderings of the Ring, as Apple calls the main building, have circulated widely. As construction progressed, enterprising drone pilots began flying their aircraft overhead, capturing aerial views in slickly edited YouTube videos accompanied by New Agey soundtracks. Amid all the fanboy anticipation, though, Apple has also taken some knocks for the scale and scope of the thing. Investors urging Apple to kick back more of its bounty to shareholders have questioned whether the reported $5 billion in construction costs should have gone into their own pockets instead of a workplace striving for history. And the campus’s opening comes at a point when, despite stellar earnings results, Apple has not launched a breakout product since Jobs’ death. Apple executives want us to know how cool its new campus is—that’s why they invited me. But this has also led some people to sniff that too much of its mojo has been devoted to giant glass panels, custom-built door handles, and a 100,000-square-foot fitness and wellness center complete with a two-story yoga room covered in stone, from just the right quarry in Kansas, that’s been carefully distressed, like a pair of jeans, to make it look like the stone at Jobs’ favorite hotel in Yosemite.

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A ring was not what Jobs had in mind when he first started talking about a new campus. Ive thinks it was around 2004 when he and his boss first began discussing a reimagined headquarters. “I think it was in Hyde Park,” he says. “When we used to go to London together, we’d spend a lot of time in these parks. We began talking about a campus where your primary sense was that you were in parkland, with many elements that were almost collegiate—where the connection between what was built and a parkland was immediate, no matter where you were.”

The discussions continued and widened throughout the company, but it wasn’t until 2009 that Apple was ready to actually move on the project. Though vacant land in Cupertino is rare, Apple had purchased 75 acres barely a mile from Infinite Loop, its current headquarters. 

As with any Apple product, its shape would be determined by its function. This would be a workplace where people were open to each other and open to nature, and the key to that would be modular sections, known as pods, for work or collaboration. Jobs’ idea was to repeat those pods over and over: pod for office work, pod for teamwork, pod for socializing, like a piano roll playing a Philip Glass composition. They would be distributed demo­cratically. Not even the CEO would get a suite or a similar incongruity. And while the company has long been notorious for internal secrecy, compartmentalizing its projects on a need-to-know basis, Jobs seemed to be proposing a more porous structure where ideas would be more freely shared across common spaces. Not totally open, of course—Ive’s design studio, for instance, would be shrouded by translucent glass—but more open than Infinite Loop.

Jobs had always insisted that most of the site be covered with trees; he even took the step of finding the perfect tree expert to create his corporate Arden. He loved the foliage at the Dish and found one of the arborists responsible. David Muffly, a cheerful, bearded fellow with a Lebowski-ish demeanor, was in a client’s backyard in Menlo Park when he got the call to come to Jobs’ office to talk trees. He was massively impressed with the Apple CEO’s taste and knowledge. “He had a better sense than most arborists,” Muffly says. “He could tell visually which trees looked like they had good structure.” Jobs was adamant that the new campus house indigenous flora, and in particular he wanted fruit trees from the orchards he remembered from growing up in Northern California.

Apple will ultimately plant almost 9,000 trees. Muffly was told that the landscape should be futureproof and that he should choose drought-tolerant varieties so his mini forest and meadows could survive a climate crisis. (As part of its ecological efforts to prevent such a crisis, Apple claims, its buildings will run solely on sustainable energy, most of it from solar arrays on the roofs.) Jobs’ aims were not just aesthetic. He did his best thinking during walks and was especially inspired by ambling in nature, so he envisioned how Apple workers would do that too. “Can you imagine doing your work in a national park?” says Tim Cook, who succeeded Jobs as CEO in 2011. “When I really need to think about something I’m struggling with, I get out in nature. We can do that now! It won’t feel like Silicon Valley at all.”

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1. Hilltop Theater

A 1,000-seat Steve Jobs Theater features a 20-foot tall, 165-foot-diameter glass cylinder topped with a metallic carbon-fiber roof. “It’s on a hill, at one of the highest points on this land,” Tim Cook says. “It felt like him.”

2. Parking Space

In 2012, Apple executives worried the project might exceed its budget. “It was a bit of a runaway kind of thing,” Cook says, leading to what one of the architects describes as a budgetary “diet.” One concession: Instead of 6,000 underground parking spaces and 3,000 above­ground (the former being more expensive), the ratio was flipped.

3. Shock Absorbers

To withstand earthquakes, the Ring is mounted on huge steel base isolators that ensure the building can move up to 4.5 feet in any direction without losing its vital services. “I love that the ambition was about more than just surviving,” Ive says. “The building could still function.”

4. Tiled Tunnel

A 755-foot, white-tile tunnel connects Wolfe Road to the campus and the Ring’s underground parking. Apple prototyped a corner of the tunnel before Ive’s design team signed off on its shape and tile work.

5. Wellness Facility

In addition to weights and a two-story yoga room, the 100,000-square-foot Fitness & Wellness Center offers employees access to medical and dental services. “I’m a big believer in people staying active. It’s something that makes them feel better and more energetic,” Tim Cook says. “It’s all about the fixation on the customer, and the customers here are our people, our employees.”

6. Breathing Building

To fulfill Jobs’ wish for a building that breathes, the engineering team consulted with experts who optimize airflow in Formula One race cars. The Ring inhales air through soffits (the undersides of the canopies) along its perimeter. Elsewhere, shafts that act like chimneys exhale warm air back outside.

7. Solar System

The 2.8-million-square-foot Ring will run solely on sustainable energy, most of it from the 805,000 square feet of solar arrays on the campus.

8. Giant Doors

The sliding glass doors along the exterior of the café extend the full four stories of the building. Weighing 440,000 pounds each, they open and close quietly via mechanisms hidden underground.

9. Native Landscape


The glass fins that protrude from the Ring at every  floor are sloped at a slight downward angle to regulate light and glare. They also prevent rain from streaking down what Ive describes as the “miles of glass” that make up the Ring’s walls.The glass fins that protrude from the Ring at every floor are sloped at a slight downward angle to regulate light and glare. They also prevent rain from streaking down what Ive describes as the “miles of glass” that make up the Ring’s walls.


To Jobs, “trees were the most beautiful bits of art,” says architect Stefan Behling. “He used to say, ‘The most amazing thing about trees is it doesn’t actually matter how rich you are: You can never buy a really old, beautiful tree.’”

To Jobs, “trees were the most beautiful bits of art,” says architect Stefan Behling. “He used to say, ‘The most amazing thing about trees is it doesn’t actually matter how rich you are: You can never buy a really old, beautiful tree.’”

This article originally appeared at: https://www.wired.com/2017/05/apple-park-new-silicon-valley-campus?mbid=synd_digg.

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