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New Yorker architecture critic harsh on Apple 'spaceship'

updated 01:40 pm EDT, Tue September 27, 2011

Building lacks 'connection to human size'

New Yorker architecture critic Paul Goldberger has written a harsh critique of Apple's forthcoming "spaceship" campus, designed by Foster + Partners. The writer describes the building as a "gigantic donut," and calls it "troubling, maybe even a bit scary," in part because it lacks the functionality of the devices Apple makes. "A building is also a tool, but of a very different sort," Goldberger says. "In architecture, scale -- the size of various parts of a building in proportion to one another and to the size of human beings -- counts for a lot.

"With this building, there seems to be very little sense of any connection to human size," the critic argues. "Flexibility is a hallmark of the iPad, and it counts in architecture, too, but how much flexibility is there in a vast office governed entirely by geometry? For all of Foster's sleekness, this Apple building seems more like a twenty-first-century version of the Pentagon."

The new campus is in fact wider than the Pentagon, with a diameter of about 1,615 feet. Local residents have expressed worries about issues like traffic, schools, parking and housing, since the proposed design should hold roughly 13,000 workers in a primarily suburban neighborhood. Apple is not expected to compromise on many of its demands, since it insists that it needs the space and is already considering a third campus.

Goldberger suggests that the spaceship might signal the tipping point before a decline. "When companies plan wildly ambitious, over-the-top headquarters, it is sometimes a sign of imperial hubris. AT&T was broken up not too long after it moved into Johnson and Burgee's famously grandiose 'Chippendale skyscraper' on Madison Avenue. General Foods did not last too long after taking occupancy of the glass-and-metal palace Kevin Roche designed for it in Westchester County, and Union Carbide fell apart after it moved into another Roche building in Danbury, Connecticut. The New York Times Company's stock price plummeted after it moved into its Renzo Piano building on Eighth Avenue, and they now lease the home they built for themselves," he points out.

"Architecture isn't in itself a cause of corporate decline -- that notion is ridiculous -- but overbearing buildings can sometimes be a symptom of companies losing touch with reality, and this problem will manifest itself in other ways. It's said that Steve Jobs considers this building to be a key part of his legacy, which would be unfortunate, because it would mean that his last contribution to his company might well be his least meaningful," the article concludes.

by MacNN Staff





  1. Blairmc

    Joined: Dec 1969



    An Architecture critic, and being paid as such, has to write something

  1. rvhernandez

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Goldberger = Jealous

    Those that can do, those that can't just critique those that do...

    Comment buried. Show
  1. facebook_Carl

    Via Facebook

    Joined: Sep 2011


    Apple Jumping the Shark

    I have to agree with the New Yorkers' Paul Goldberger, the only reason I can see Steve building such a building is to Anchor Apple to Cupertino, not because they need office space. If Apple builds this building as beautiful as it may be, they will have invested so much money that they could never leave Cupertino long after Steve leave the Earth. Apple makes great Electronics, but please stick to what your good at! Otherwise, it might cost the World of many more great things to come if the profits are not put back into R&D. We could Lose Apple Computers like we almost did in the 90's. Then what ugly beige boxes again?

  1. ZinkDifferent

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Sounds like...

    .... somebody has a chip on his shoulder, and was probably left out of a cocktail party.

    Comment buried. Show
  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969



    We know, since Apple can only design great things, that anyone who dares criticize them must be jealous or out for blood or looking to score hits or something. They certainly couldn't be correct.

  1. jarod

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Don't quit your day job Pauli. Lord knows what kind of architecture you specialize in LOL.

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Re: Nonsense

    An Architecture critic, and being paid as such, has to write something

    And he could have just as easily wrote a glowing piece about the new building. Critics aren't there to just criticize. They are there to critique.

    I'm sure if you look back, he probably praised the Apple Store in NY.

  1. Orbifold

    Joined: Dec 1969


    iHQ not pride before fall

    I watched Steve Jobs present this plan to Cupertino's council. The neighbors will see mostly trees. The 50's space station allusion is a little corny but it shows off Apple's skill with curved glass. This will cost a little more than Silicon Valley's usual ugly campuses and will give them more goodwill in Cupertino and impress their visitors more.

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Re: Goldberger = Jealous

    Those that can do, those that can't just critique those that do...

    And? Does this mean you're really jealous of everything MS does because you can't do that and you critique it?

  1. bleee

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Steve got them to where they are

    If he wants to go out with a big building bang, that's his choice. The company needs to be able to stand on it's own with out Jobs at the helm. He already brought the company back from the dead and DESTROYED the competition.

    Steve left them with $76 BILLION dollars in the bank (Cash reserves)... anyone who screws that up should seriosuly think about jumping off the building although I'm not sure if 4 stories will kill you.

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