Apple Park headquarters building overwhelms human scale
I took advantage of a beautiful fall Sunday to drive about 50 miles to Cupertino, California to check out what could be seen of the brand-new headquarters building of Apple. Dubbed Apple Park, it has become an instant icon of the information age, dubbed "the spaceship" for its otherworldly appearance.
I was not able to see any of the interior and cannot offer anything approaching an architectural review. But there is one salient impression that forcefully leaps out. This property is clearly intended to overwhelm the visitor with the size and power of the organization that lies within. It is not of a scale related in any way to the human body.
I found a spot where the fencing around the vast property was relatively close to the building itself, and one could get a sense of its scale as a visitor entering it would experience its majesty.
When one is near it, the curvature of the façade is barely perceptible. A casual glance sees it as straight, and only when one looks left and right does one sense the vast scale of the circle it encompasses. The effect of its uniform façade, blankly repeating the minimalist decoration and continuing as far as the eye can see, connotes a power unresponsive to outside forces, a perfect geometric form that cannot be altered.
Even though the architectural style is utterly different, the impression I received was similar to what I have felt visiting the palace at Versailles and St. Peter's in Rome: this structure was calculated to overwhelm the visitor with the power and splendor of the humans who built and control it. Approach it and be humbled.
While I was present, a continuing stream of huge trucks streamed in and out, hauling dirt: obviously, the landscaping, including a veritable forest of trees, is moving significant quantities of soil. This steady traffic on a Sunday (overtime pay!) demonstrated to me why this building cost a reported $5 billion. There is no sign of expense being spared.
The noise, dirt, and traffic involved in this massive project must have been deeply annoying to neighbors. If the shopping center across the street from the main gate is any indication, the neighborhood is heavily Chinese. Most of the stores and restaurants in the shopping center displayed Chinese characters and were clearly aimed at that ethnicity.
Apple seems to be getting a ton of good publicity for its innovative building. Maybe it will be a great place to work in, although traveling from one side of the building to the other could be quite a walk should a quick meeting be necessary among different groups housed apart from each other.
As concerns rise about the power lying in the hands of the tech oligopolists, Apple Park aptly symbolizes a vast, incomprehensible, alien force that doesn't have to care about us.