Thursday, April 25, 2013

Spaceship HQ: No Thrown Phones in Glass Houses

 “We have a shot, at building the best office building in the world. I really do think that architecture students will come here to see it.”-Steve Jobs

Apple - Spaceship HQ

Location: Cupertino, CA
Architects: Foster + Partners
Estimated Date of Completion: 2014-16'
Current Estimated Cost: $5 Billion
PartiCircular Unity


That's right, you read that correctly; Spaceship. Though entirely Earthbound, the naming of this iconic design didn't come about until the late Steve Jobs pitched is idea to the Cupertino City Council and stated, “It’s a little like a spaceship...”  

Universal, is a concept Apple has strived to create; which is why their second Headquarters is set to become the largest corporate singularity ever built. Sitting on a 2.8 million square foot plot in the middle of a sea of office buildings, it will (figuratively) overshadow its neighbors.  It will harness the potential of anywhere from 12,000 to 14,200 employees, and potentially become the next home for the future WWDCs.   Four stories high, and completely surrounded by curvilinear glass (via Norman Foster's genius) it will be a marvel to behold.

However something of that magnitude doesn't come with an easy price tag.  Initially slated to cost $3 Billion, with completion in 2014, has now been reevaluated to cost $5 Billion -easily pushing back completion to 2016 or even later. To put that cost into perspective:
"If their consensus estimate is accurate, Apple’s expansion would eclipse the $3.9 billion being spent on the new World Trade Center complex in New York, and the new office space would run more than $1,500 per square foot—three times the cost of many top-of-the-line downtown corporate towers," wrote Businessweek.

Causes of Excess

For starters, the site in which it is set already contains numerous office buildings that must be demolished, and  the land prepped for such an undertaking. Next the aforementioned continuous curvilinear glass paneling is the sort of ridiculous expensive it is reserved for the most elite of structures-which is of course a non-negotiable cost as it is inherent to the design. These windows are also completely automated in their adjustment, which is an innovate technology on its own merits.

Mr. Jobs was envisioning a glorious space, with a very lavish interior. So much so that: 
"All of the interior wood was to be harvested from a specific species of maple, and only the finer-quality "heartwood" at the center of the trees would be used..."
The rarest parts of mighty trees.
 "[He] insisted that the tiny gaps where walls and other surfaces come together be no more than 1/32 of an inch across, vs. the typical 1/8 inch in most U.S. construction." 
Seemingly superhuman building accuracy, consistantly through the entire structure.
And "every wall, floor, and even ceiling is to be polished to a supernatural smoothness." 
Because shiny. 
*Please allow the Sustainability Student a chance to breath.

Even though I completely abhor the practices mentioned above, I have to say this, that would be pretty incredible to see. If anyone could pull it off, it'd be Apple- If anyone could dream it up, it'd be Mr. Jobs.  I am certainly not one to stand in the way of innovation; I can see that in order to really break free, one must also break boundaries, just as much as one feels compelled to create grand monuments.  The Architects are doing their best to save costs wherever they can, aiming for $1 Billion in reduction. While still maintaining a sincere respect to their visionary leader.

The Sustainable Influence

So beyond those personal criticisms, this project has some really cool green technology! I want to jump right in a point out that all of the trees depicted in the renderings above will have been planted. It seems like an odd thing to state, but in a time where more are slashed than are allowed to thrive, it's a decent step forward.  Something to the tune of 6,000 trees (/flowers/herbs/fruit etc.) of 309 different species will cover 15 acres both inside and outside the campus.

Additionally, the entire 700,000 square foot roof will be covered in solar panels, giving sustainability energy independence to the facility.  Since the area surrounding is small office parks, the 360 degree roof is hindered only by cloud cover.  Very efficient!
Leaked, but not confirmed. From here

Lastly, or at least the last one i'm discussing is the use of Solar tubes to pipe in natural light and some radiant heat, combined with the automated window technology I mentioned previously.  The system works to mechanically adjust each window to specific algorithms to maintain an ideal temperature.  The only thing i'd be concerned about is if that machine malfunctioned. (Also known as the Breath-o-Smart conundrum.)

What remains to be seen.

So far it seems uncertain.  This could be a monument or a tomb. The Architects are certainly capable, rational, creative beings; The current economic situation is an entirely different beast....  What I can say is this, whatever happens it will certainly be interesting to see how anticipation and corporate rivalry will play out. And be it spaceship, donut, Roomba, or "endless hallway", it'll certainly be an impressive feat of construction and engineering. 

 If something major comes up, i'll do my best to edit this post, however I'll let the professional apple-bloggers fill you in on the rest. For one can only wait for the next iteration of design to come through the gates, and hope the numbers work.

“Steve put a lot of love and attention into this before he passed away, hopefully we’ve made it better during the design phase. We want to do this right.”
-Tim Cook

That's a whole lot of smashin' and smoothin'.


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