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Architect of Apple Campus 2 reveals Jobs' influence

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
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
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 fa├žades.

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
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.

by MacNN Staff



  1. lkrupp

    Junior Member

    Joined: 05-13-01

    Construction will never be completed as Apple will be bankrupt by this time next year. I mean let's face the facts. $50 POS Android tablets are selling like hotcakes while Apple only sold 70 million iPads last year. The handwriting is on the wall, people.


    Your friendly neighborhood troll.

  1. Inkling

    Senior User

    Joined: 07-25-06

    New ideas often come with unexpected gotchas. Apple is paying a high cost to stay in pricey California and to build this beautiful new building. Jobs and his heirs undoubtedly want close physical contact between staff. But how can you have that with a design that's so spread out? Is there a 'people mover' that circles around that ring, or will staff have to leave their desks at 9:30 to get to a 10 am meeting on the far side of the circle? You could probably find out by consulting people who work at the Pentagon.

    That's why organizations that need to accommodate a lot of employees typically to build up. It's also less confusing with the floor is the first ID of a location. My own hunch, based on having worked in similar, although smaller, cell-like buildings at the 1980s Microsoft, it that there's be a confusing sameness to the building. That "communicate a sense of going somewhere rather than wandering" may turn out to be a sense of endlessly going but never arriving.

  1. coffeetime

    Senior User

    Joined: 11-15-06

    The building is nice but I think Apple should spend less on this fancy building because:
    1. Budget estimate is always underestimate. This building probably will end up costing more to build and maintain.
    2. Apple needs chip fabrication plants of their own just to 100% get rid of Samsung once and for all.

  1. yticolev

    Forum Regular

    Joined: 05-22-02

    It is not necessary to walk the circumference to get to a meeting, you can cut through the donut. I suspect bicycles will be available to assist. But it is probably not so important as Apple makes heavy use of isolated work groups.

  1. And.reg

    Mac Elite

    Joined: 02-22-04

    Originally Posted by lkruppView Post

    Your friendly neighborhood troll.

    Cool story troll. Weren't people saying Apple would be bankrupt after they came out with the flower power iMac? and then again after the Motorola over clocked G4s? and then the... and then...

    yeah no they're not going bankrupt.

  1. smacker

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 04-24-03

    I think that was sarcasm, And.reg

  1. And.reg

    Mac Elite

    Joined: 02-22-04

    No it wasn't.

  1. Spheric Harlot

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 11-07-99

    If you think somebody claiming that a company with hundreds of billions in the bank is going bankrupt within one year because of "$50 tablets" and then signing that post as "your friendly neighborhood troll" is NOT sarcasm, you really, really need to recalibrate to reality.

  1. And.reg

    Mac Elite

    Joined: 02-22-04

    Grumpy morning to you to, SH.

    So you can determine the actual meaning of people's posts from their signatures... must be an acquired skill around your neck of the woods.

    Whose reality is distorted?

    His post looked intentful to me, so he meant what he said.

    Otherwise, he wouldn't slander Apple in the same ridiculous way that like all the other anti-Apple trolls do.

  1. Spheric Harlot

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 11-07-99

    Originally Posted by And.regView Post

    So you can determine the actual meaning of people's posts from their signatures...

    If the signature is "I AM TROLLING, HELLO", then yes, I have faith in my ability to tell that somebody isn't being serious.

    It's okay, And.reg. lkrupp isn't new here; he was joking; you didn't get it. End of story.

    Happens all the time...

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