updated 12:40 am EST, Tue March 4, 2014
Unusual single building will house 12,000 employees in far less space
One of the most overlooked factors in the spaceship-like ring design of Apple's forthcoming "Campus 2" is that the building is expected to house some 12,000 employees in a single (albeit enormous) structure -- about the same as Hewlett-Packard, the previous occupants of the land, house in more than 26 buildings formerly on the property. Chief Architect Norman Foster has recently revealed more details about the building's origins.
Comparison of Campus 2 site to original campus
In addition to housing a staggering number of workers in a single building, the new headquarters will also accomplish this feat using only 13 percent of the space HP used. Foster spoke with the Architectural Record about Apple's new HQ and some of his other well-known projects, including London's Millennium Bridge and "Gherkin" tower, Berlin's Reichstag Dome, Beijing Airport's Terminal 3 and France's Millau Viaduct, among many others. He has long experience working with curved glass, a key ingredient in Campus 2's ring design, and creating spaces on a large scale that feel open and yet communicate a sense of going somewhere rather than wandering.
In the overview of his career, Foster spent some time talking specifically about Apple's Campus 2 and about its inspirations, which largely came from his client, the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. Influences on the design can be seen both in Foster's airport work and from Jobs, whom Foster said drew a reference to the Main Quad plaza at Stanford University. While not circular, the quad gives students an open resting spot with islands of palm trees and other flora, surrounded by buildings as one might see in the great plazas of Rome.
Examples of Foster's work
"One idea which came out of it is that you can get high density by building around the perimeter of a site, as in the squares of London," Foster told the magazine. "And in the case of a London square, you create a mini-park in the center. So a series of organic segments in the early studies started to form enclosures, all of which were in turn related to the scale of the Stanford campus." The sentiment fits in with Foster's habit of incorporating outdoor influences and spaces into his designs, often through the use of huge glass ceilings or façades.
Another influence on the design that came directly from Jobs, he said, was the desire by Jobs for the aesthetic of both the building and the land around it to reflect back on the less-developed California of Jobs' youth, when agriculture was one of the leading industries of the area where he grew up and had a big influence on life in general there. Jobs himself worked on various farms as a teenager and college student, and was periodically known to go on all-fruit diets.
Stanford University's Main Quad
"These studies finally morphed into a circular building that would enclose the private space in the middle-essentially a park that would replicate the original California landscape," Foster said, "and parts of it would also recapture the orchards of the past. The car would visually be banished, and tarmac would be replaced by greenery, and car parks by jogging and bicycle trails."
Apple CEO Tim Cook has expressed hopes that the project will be complete sometime in 2016. The costs of the project have mushroomed from an initial estimate just under $3 billion to over $5 billion, but in the meantime numerous refinements and additional modifications have been made, including more above-ground parking (that will double as a solar collection energy factory), a larger underground "Town Hall" auditorium for future presentations, a visitor's center and bus depot for employee transit and more.