updated 07:00 pm EDT, Fri June 8, 2012
Foregoes round motif for larger amphitheater
A part of the massive, spaceship-like new Apple campus now in the final planning stages includes a number of sections that are entirely underground, including some that are a short distance away from the main building. One such part, a "town hall" auditorium that Apple probably intends to use for future press rollouts and employee briefings, has seen a significant revision, retaining an "amphitheater" feel but expanding and gaining a more rectangular shape.
The revised plans, which supercede ones posted in March, are the fourth revision and detail the new headquarters more thoroughly than before. In the previous version, the auditorium was in a mostly-rounded space in keeping with the circular motif of the main building (see below). In the new revision, the theatre foregoes the circular design for a more rectangular space, adding significantly to the size.
The new drawings appear to show that the extra space will be used largely for equipment storage and a better loading dock with ramps for trucks and other vehicles. Off-stage rooms and working areas also appear to have been expanded, perhaps signalling that the auditorium will be used for more than just press presentations or shareholder meetings.
The overall design uses "green" technology wherever possible and is marked by extremely large panes of curved glass in the round above-ground main building. Although most operations will move to the new building when it is completed (expected to be in 2015, though construction has not yet begun), the company will retain it's original and current headquarter building as well. The underground theater on the new campus is expected to replace the auditorium in the current building, which may be converted to other uses.
Apple's expansion in personnel as well as company size has strained its ability to find office space close to the main campus for all its workers. Along with renting many office buildings in Cupertino and nearby cities, Apple has to compete for office space with other tech companies including Google and Yahoo, among others.
The futuristic HQ was among the final projects co-founder Steve Jobs worked on at the end of his life, and his presentation to the Cupertino City Council exactly one year ago to get the 12,000-employee-capacity new building approved turned out to be his final public appearance.