Reactor

Apple Plans to Build Giant Glass Ring

by Hrag Vartanian on June 9, 2011

In what can only be described as potentially game-changing architectural news, Steve Jobs presented Apple’s plans to create a four-story glass donut-shaped building on a 148-acre site to the Cupertino City Council this week.

A screenshot of Apple's presentation with our annotations (all images via Cupertino City Council) (click to enlarge)

As part of the proposed development, Jobs says that Apple plans to build an office building that will house up to 13,000 employees and something that “architecture students will come here to see.” He added that parking will predominantly be underground, though there will be a parking structure on one side of the property. Other buildings will include an auditorium, fitness center, R&D center and energy station. The Apple energy center will generate energy through natural gas and other cleaner means, Jobs said during his presentation.

The building seems fitting for a company that loves grand geometric gestures (think the Fifth Avenue glass cube in Manhattan or the almost button-less simplicity of its iDevices) and is currently located at a very futuristic sounding address, 1 Infinity Loop.

The proposed structure surrounded by lush woods looks like something straight out of Star Trek: The Next Generation, like Starfleet Academy. It’s a grand gesture that says, “The future is going to look like this.”

The circle has long been a familiar form in architecture, think the ancient Roman Pantheon, the temples of ancient India, the 7th C. Zvartnots cathedral of Armenia, the circular city of Baghdad (circa 766 AD) or the forms in Great Zimbabwe of Sub-saharan Africa (12-15th C.). Yet the massive scale of the project made me wonder how realistic it was when Job used the term “human scale” to describe the project’s design.

Same dreamy vision? Left, Starfleet Academy in Star Trek: The Next Generation, and right, an artist's rendering of Apple HQ (via life-union.com & Cupertino City Council)

A view of Olafur Eliasson's "Your Rainbow Panorama" in Denmark. (via designboom.com)

It’s too early to know if there will be specially commissioned art for the complex — I’m guessing there will be — but if there is may I suggest Olafur Eliasson’s “Your Rainbow Panorama,” which is currently installed on the roof of a museum in Aarhus, Denmark. A massive rainbow ring to view the countryside would look spectacular onto of this axis mundi of the tech world.

The plans are still schematic, but if the track record of Apple is any indication, we can be assured that this giant project will attempt to reinvent the contemporary workplace using smart and intuitive design. Jobs’s emphasis on environmental impact in his presentation also made it sound like it would be a huge part of the planning and final result. All of this sounds like a win-win.

Watch the Cupertino City Council become starstruck at the sight of Jobs and see the tech god make them tense up when he mentions that as the city’s largest taxpayer it would be unfortunate if Apple had to move (hint, hint).

Here are some screenshots of the slides from his presentation.

An aerial view of the proposed Apple HQ.

A view of one of the cafeteria's at the Apple HQ.

Cheesy sunset (or sunrise) by the proposed Apple glass ring office building.

Not the most flattering rendering of the proposed Apple campus.

A chart presented by Steve Job demonstrating how the proposed Apple campus will impact Cupertino.

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Who is the Architect?

One notable omission from the Jobs presentation was the name of the architect. Why was the architectural firm not mentioned? One Facebook friend speculated why:

… perhaps Jobs wanted to downplay the starchitecture angle. I’ve read speculations it’s Foster. But BCJ [Bohlin Cywinski Jackson] does their stores, and he mentioned the glass technology in the video.”

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Just for fun, I wanted to throw in this thought-provoking post by Life Without Buildings titled “Considering an Alternative San Francisco,” which imagines an alternate history for the city by the Bay.

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  • Den Hickey

    Yeah, better not have to go from one side of the ring to the other too often, I guess.

  • http://twitter.com/chaykak Kyle Chayka

    I really hope employees are able to walk through the center of the ring. Or is there just an iShuttle to get around?

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