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Apple's Glass Spaceship Has Landed

Monday, May 22, 2017

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Apple’s new headquarters—Apple Park—started filling up with the first of its 12,000 employees last month, and the Cupertino, California, “spaceship” is officially open.

The last dream of late former CEO Steve Jobs tops out at 75 acres and an unconfirmed $5 billion price tag, with the main building—the Ring—coming in at 2.8 million square feet. Its circular design is intended for a communicative work environment.

Apple design chief Jonathan Ive, head of facilities Dan Whisenhunt and architect Norman Foster (and his firm Foster + Partners, based in London) worked to make the dream a reality.

The Design

The Ring’s walls are made entirely of 45-foot-tall panels of safety glass, commissioned by the Seele Group (Germany), which already had a relationship with Apple for its many glass-clad storefronts and other buildings.

Prior to the Apple Park project, Seele Group already owned the only machine capable of making such panels. However, Apple needed about 800 of them, so Seele worked with a manufacturer to come up with a way to make five panels at once.

Because this was an almost-all-glass-building in California, it needed shades. The structure’s canopies are also glass, with one side painted white, and fixated to a metal sheet coated with white silicone. These canopies are also crucial to the heating and cooling system of the building (which is pretty much nonexistent).

The Ring “inhales” air through soffits in its canopies and shafts “exhale” the air back outside, which are part of a “natural ventilation system” of the building. There also tubes of water in the concrete in the floor and ceiling. Heating and cooling only kicks in during extreme temperatures, which allows for the feel of being outside—one of the key ingredients in the design via Jobs' wishes.

In addition to the glass walls, large glass doors were also constructed that allow for the building’s cafe to open up to the outside. Each door is 85 feet by 54 feet and weighs roughly 400,000 pounds.

Other Campus Highlights

  • The Steve Jobs Theater: The 20-foot tall, 165-foot diameter glass cylinder topped with a metallic carbon-fiber roof marks the highest point of the campus.
  • Shock Absorbers: The campus’ main building—the Ring—is mounted on steel isolators that allow the building to shift up to nearly 5 feet in any direction in the event of an earthquake.
  • Trees: The campus is slated to have more than 9,000 native, drought-resistant trees planted on the grounds.
  • Solar Energy: The Ring runs on sustainable energy, mostly from the 805,000 square feet of solar arrays.
  • The Tunnel: A 755-foot, white-tiled tunnel connects the road to the campus.


Tagged categories: Architecture; Building Envelope; Construction; Design build; Glass; Green building; North America

Comment from Mark Anater, (5/22/2017, 8:17 AM)

When large corporations build Taj Mahal headquarters, they are usually acts of hubris done when the company is at its peak. As often as not, the company starts declining soon thereafter, and the fancy HQ becomes a white elephant. Not saying Apple is doomed to follow this pattern, but history is not kind to this sort of move.

Comment from Jesse Melton, (5/22/2017, 9:48 AM)

They bring in around $1B per week in income (profit). They have $237 billion dollars in cash and cash equivalent securities and $85 billion in other assets.

They spent about a weeks pay on the property and the building. The big difference between the Apple donut and the houses of hubris companies have built in the past is Apple didn't have to leverage revenue to pay for the building. That's the part that usually goes bad for companies that build over the top HQ buildings. Those companies bet on revenue continuing to grow. It's a risk. Whereas the Apple donut presents no financial risk at all to the company.

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (5/23/2017, 8:56 AM)

Jesse is right - Apple can easily pay for this out of cash flow, and they end up with an HQ with an extremely low operating cost. If the employees are even 1% happier and more productive, it will more than pay for itself.

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