Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Apple’s New Campus

Steven Levy (Hacker News):

For the next two hours, Ive and Whisenhunt walk me through other parts of the building and the grounds. They describe the level of attention devoted to every detail, the willingness to search the earth for the right materials, and the obstacles overcome to achieve perfection, all of which would make sense for an actual Apple consumer product, where production expenses could be amortized over millions of units. But the Ring is a 2.8-million-square-foot one-off, eight years in the making and with a customer base of 12,000. How can anyone justify this spectacular effort?


The meetings often lasted for five or six hours, consuming a significant amount of time in the last two years of Jobs’ life. He could be scary when he swooped down on a detail he demanded. At one point, Behling recalls, Jobs discussed the walls he had in mind for the offices: “He knew exactly what timber he wanted, but not just ‘I like oak’ or ‘I like maple.’ He knew it had to be quarter-cut. It had to be cut in the winter, ideally in January, to have the least amount of sap and sugar content.


Those post-Jobs details were largely crafted by Foster + Partners and Ive’s design team, who custom-developed almost every aspect of the building, down to the wash basins and faucets.


It’s hard not to be overwhelmed by all of this. Ask me sometime about the fonts in the elevator or the hidden pipes in the bathroom commodes. And it’s hard not to return again and again to the same question: Is Apple Park the arcadia outlined by Jobs in his public farewell, or is it an anal-retentive nightmare of indulgence gone wild?

In my experience, these sort of architectural marvels end up not being very functional, but hopefully they’ve bucked that trend. If it works as intended, this will be a great investment in the future, but it also sounds like there was a huge opportunity cost. Apple’s attention is its most limited resource. Apple Park’s design and construction has consumed a lot of time for key people these last several years, at the same time it seems like entire product lines have been neglected.

Update (2017-06-02): Steven Levy:

But at this first meeting in 2010, Muffly learned that he and Steve Jobs shared a love of trees, and in particular a passion for the foliage native to the pre-Silicon Valley landscape, before big tech companies showed up and changed it. The encounter would lead to Muffly becoming the senior arborist at Apple, Inc., in charge of choosing, locating and planting the 9,000 trees that justify Apple’s choice to call its 175-acre campus a park — and in making Apple Park a leaf-and-blossom tribute to the CEO who designed it but would not live to see it built. Or planted.

6 Comments RSS · Twitter

So it sounds like employees will still have doors. Not sure if there will be roofs, though...

I'm be curious to see how the pods will look like once inhabited. Because right now, they remind me more of nice looking holding cells.

There's also something I don't get about the blocks of pods. Basically you have this giant circle with huge curved glass panels. But none of the pods is getting daylight or a view. It's just like being in the middle seat in an airplane.

> In my experience, these sort of architectural marvels end up not being very functional

The problem with architecture is that you're basically guessing about how people will use it, and these guesses are usually wrong. With software, you're doing the same, but you can go back and change basic design details. With buildings, you're stuck. I was talking to an architect friend of mine, asking her about what kind of tools they used to test designs before they're built, and what kinds of classes she attended at university that talked about this issue. She was basically like "eh, it's just experience, you'll figure it out in time."

Okay. I'll never build a house then.

@Lukas That and the fact that even if you get those guesses right, when using new materials and designs it’s hard to anticipate all the problems.

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