updated 09:31 pm EDT, Fri October 11, 2013
'A place for the most creative teams ... to innovate for decades to come'
Apple's Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer may have at first seemed to be an unusual choice for hosting a sneak-peek at a very large 3D architectural model of Apple's forthcoming Campus 2, known already as "the Spaceship" three years before it is even planned to open -- but like his colleagues, Oppenheimer has a gift for selling dreams. Along with Senior Director of Real Estate and Facilities Dan Whisenhunt, the CFO gave reporters a tour of the model ahead of a Cupertino City Council vote.
While the project has already met with support from authorities, the first of two crucial approval votes will be held on October 15, giving official preliminary approval to the new headquarters and allowing some pre-construction groundbreaking and other activities to begin. A final vote will be held on November 19, with formal construction slated to begin shortly thereafter.
The present site for the new headquarters, which was formerly owned by HP, is a 175-acre parcel near the current HQ. Apple's vision for the area turns it from 80 percent asphalt and old buildings into 80 percent open space and parkland, with a round main building and smaller, multi-storey parking garages that will house some 14,000 employees (still only a fraction of Apple's workforce). The overall design, in addition to looking appropriately futuristic, is heavy with two main concepts: collaboration and eco-consciousness.
Computer-generated images and drawings have been used to sell the vision -- itself a collaboration between architect Sir Norman Foster, Apple designer Sir Jonathan Ive and former CEO and co-founder Steve Jobs -- but the debut of the formerly top-secret 3D physical model makes it even easier to understand exactly how the plan will work. The model also makes it obvious that the project, in the words of the San Jose Mercury News, is "a world-class real estate project" that promises to be both functional and beautiful -- but also may add to Silicon Valley's already-problematic traffic.
"We have treated this project just as we would any Apple product. And this will be a place for the most creative and collaborative teams in the industry to innovate for decades to come," Oppenheimer told reporters. "You [can] see the energy and the love and the attention to detail that we've put into this."
He added that the key concepts of the design are "collaboration and fluidity," saying the company found that "found that rectangles or squares or long buildings or buildings with more than four stories would inhibit collaboration," and that's why the design team eventually settled on a circle and a "walkable" building. Whisenhunt called it "one of the most environmentally sustainable developments on this scale anywhere in the world," saying the design allowed it to use 30 percent less energy than a typical corporate building, and would draw from "100 percent renewable energy, which is unheard of on this scale -- with most of it produced on-site."
As is typical of Apple building projects, a number of areas of concern have been carefully thought through and addressed. Natural ventilation and radiant cooling will all but eliminate the need for air-conditioning until the hottest times of the year; the lighting will be LED-based and smart-controlled to turn off in unused areas and adapt to microclimates in the building; even the excavated dirt will be recycled into berms -- avoiding having noisy, dusty trucks haul out the original soil and later bring in fill. Some 7,000 fruit, olive and oak trees will eventually be planted on the site, which was once a fruit orchard and reminiscent of the original foliage of the valley, pre-development.
The building is also about fostering collaboration -- a concept pioneered by Jobs particularly when he was CEO of Pixar. The late Apple co-founder was also behind the arboreal passion and eco-friendly design, helping develop practical methods to accomplish the massive scale of curved glass that will be used to help light the building. The main design and environmental concepts "may have started with [Jobs,] but it's embedded in all of us," said Oppenheimer.
He said that Jobs, who started his technology career thanks to some mentoring by HP founder David Packard, "loved the area and especially Cupertino. It's always been and always will be Apple's home." While the company will be retaining its original headquarters as well, the new campus will "provide a very open-spaced system, so that at one point in the day you may be in offices on one side of the circle and find yourself on the other side later that day," Oppenheimer said. "And in addition to bringing the best office building ever, we wanted to return this beautiful piece of land to its natural state. That's part of the Apple culture."