Apple's new Apple Campus 2 is a giant circular structure with more square footage than the Empire State Building. Image: Foster + Partners
In the year 2015, a strange, glowing, circular structure will rise within the sleepy little town of Cupertino, CA. With walls of uninterrupted curving glass, the nearly impenetrable ring will house a strange buzzing species working separately, but together, as a single hive mind.
But please. Do not call this unworldly wheel a spaceship, as certain mistaken bloggers have done. For the giant circle, nestled as it will be in the northern portions of a large rectangular lot, with its black roof and circular hub at the center, more greatly resembles another technological product of advanced beings: the iPod.
The iPod wheel inspired the shape of the new Apple Campus 2. Image: Foster + Partners
"The iPod wheel is certainly appropriate," says Rick Kitson, Cupertino's director of public and environmental affairs. Kitson has seen the ups and downs the company has experienced over the years, as marked by how they occupy architecture. "There've been previous occasions where just about every building in town has been occupied by Apple, then times when they weren't. A lot changed when Jobs came back, and the iPod was really the hallmark of that change."
But where the iPod wowed with its relatively small size, the Apple Campus 2 will wow with its gargantuan scale. Its footprint is a million square feet, its total square footage near three million. A good 14,000-odd employees can fit inside. And its diameter is just shy of that of the Pentagon (The Pentagon wins big when it comes to square footage. With 7 floors, including two basements, compared to Apple’s 6, and a less empty interior “court”, it’s six and a half million square feet, still the largest office space on the planet).
Apple's security concerns are also Pentagon-sized. The second of its two "fundamental" project objectives for the site, as described in the plans released to the city of Cupertino, is to, "Achieve the security and privacy required for the invention of new products by eliminating any public access through the site, and protecting the perimeters against trespassers."
With parking lot, auditorium, and other peripherals buried underground, employees will see mostly trees. Image: Foster + Partners
Entry points to the building have been reduced to a minimum. Auditoriums will be subterranean. How the building's perimeters will be protected against trespassers and other security details remain undisclosed. Apple refuses to comment on this topic or any other. The architects hired by Apple, the U.K.'s Foster & Partners, refuse to comment as well.
The biggest challenge, though, is not barring undesirables, nor is it the how of cobbling together great arcs of glass to form the outer walls. The biggest hurdle is winning the approval of Cupertino building officials. No one doubts that such approval will be won, but the project is so massive that city employees are swamped with the work generated by the process. "The biggest challenge for us isn't so much the science or the technical aspects of the application, it's really the magnitude," says Kitson. "We have a battery—I don't think I can say an army, but it's close to that—of consultants."
Cupertino, or its hired throng of specialists, has to determine that Apple's plans meet the state of California's environmental, seismic, and assorted standards. Kitson thinks that won't be an issue. "It's not part of our evaluation, but one couldn't help but notice that they intend that it be carbon neutral," says Kitson. "Seismic safety has not been an issue with previous Apple projects, and we do not expect it to be an issue with this."
Apple's sustainable goals exceed those required by "an area zoned for the use for which they want to put it—there's no rare frog or butterfly that is being endangered," says Kitson. The campus will have fuel cells, its own natural-gas-fired power plant, and 650,000 square feet of photovoltaic cells mounted on the roof, making it black. A good deal of the water they use will come from purple pipes, the color code for recycled pipes. Parking and anything else deemed unsightly will be buried underground. Workers looking outside and outsiders looking in will see mostly trees.
According to Kitson, the plans are likely to earn Apple a LEED gold or platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. With all things seeming green, California Gov. Jerry Brown has promised to speed up the review process so Apple can soon break ground.
Whether you think the structure looks to be a glorious demonstration of modern architecture and design or just another cold glass orb, this ship will soon land.
Michael Abrams is an independent writer.
The biggest challenge for us isn't so much the science or the technical aspects of the application—it's really the magnitude.
Rick Kitson, director of public and environmental affairs, City of Cupertino
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