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“We’ve come up with a design that puts 12,000 people in one building” June 9, 2011

Posted by Bob Cook in Company Case Studies, Corporate HQ, Green Initiatives, Profession of Corporate Real Estate, Silicon Valley.

It’s not often that a CEO of a major company makes a presentation to City Council on company plans for a new headquarters building.  But Apple is no ordinary company, and Steve Jobs certainly is no ordinary CEO.  He’s not afraid of being accused of having an “ediface complex” — a concern that afflicts most other CEO’s and which is responsible for the declining quality of architecture as it relates to corporate headquarters buildings, IMHO.  No, no one is going to challenge Mr Black Turtleneck, Mr Cool, himself, on this one.

It’ll be interesting to see if Jobs’ new Apple HQ announcement spurs imatators … just as has been the case with the iPod, iPhone, and iPad.  Will it become ok, again, to build iconic HQ’s? 

See Jobs’ presentation to Cupertino’s City Council here:  http://www.youtube.com/user/cupertinocitychannel#p/u/0/gtuz5OmOh_M


1. laurent Dhollande - June 9, 2011

Well Apple is a word apart.

You can’t stop but being seduced by the boldness and the statenent this is making, both from an image, design, and corporate culture perspective. This comment from somoeone who vigorously opposes the idea of “everyone uner the same roof” for all sorts of reasons, having to do with productivity, cost, environment, and long term labor retention, in a word where virtual and mobile tools make it desirable to go exactly the opposite way. But you can’t stop from respecting Steve Jobs’s visions.

I do wonder though …. When Steve Jobs is gone, when their business model hit a snafu, when Apple realizes the world has changed and the organizational model needs to be different, in other words when they may actually no longer need to house 12,000 people under one roof in Cupertino, I wonder what they will do with this building. In 20 years.

Maybe by then there will be an easy recycling solution. Like when I go drop my old TV by Best Buy. “Dumb your old buidling in the recycling bin here”

Meanwhile the Apple dream continues. Wich reminds me that some of us who were at Sun Microsystems in the 1995-96 days might remember we came that close to acuqire Apple. Had we done so, there certainly would have been no space ship landing in Cupertino. That would have been too bad… would have deprived us of this fascinating Apple movie unfolding before our eyes.

Would you agree Bob? As I recall you joined Sun a few years later. Would you have built a space ship?

2. Bob Cook - June 10, 2011


Yes, like you, I am awed by the powerful image of this spaceship. Also, like you, I think building one big circular building for 12k people is crazy. (Apparently, Steve Jobs even thinks it’s “crazy” if you listen to his presentation.) It’ll be interesting to see what becomes of the space ship … assuming rationality does not stop its construction … 20 or 30 years from now. Clearly, “exit strategy” was not high on the list of design criteria, and “elegance” trumped all criteria.

No, we never would have built a space ship at Sun Microsystems. Exit strategy was always on our minds. As it turns out, though, Sun’s million-square-foot +/-campuses are all being sold off in their entireties. Facebook bought one. BioMed Realty Trust bought one. I think Oracle sill occupies the rest, but time will tell what happens to them. Turns out, building them so they could be broken up into several smaller campuses or multi-tenanted was not all that important after all. Who knew back then that there would be a bunch of “young turk” companies that would be interested in these campuses when the time came for Sun to retire. Maybe Steve Jobs knows more than the rest of us. Maybe 20 years from now, there will be a lot of “young turk” companies wanting to put 12,000 people in Cupertino.

Then again, maybe he’s betting on re-use. The spaceship would make a nice enclosed Velodome is SF Bay Area ever gets the Olympics.

3. Laurent - June 10, 2011

I agree… no real exit strategy thought into the Apple process, or so it seems.

You also make a good point wrt Sun that it is not obvious that the (great) amount of thoughts we placed into exit made a huge difference in hindsight, at least not in menlo park now bought by Facebook.

However, I would like to say that the Newark campus was purchased by BioMed Realty trust in part becasue it was multi-tenantable. Had it not been the case and had the ONLYoption been to market it as a single HQ site, the price at which they acquired it would have been lower. That does not mean they did not first try to market as a single user site. Would have been nice if Genentech or Google took it all, wouldn’t it? But it’s not like there were many companies looking for space for ~2k people in Newark, and the buyer knew that and factored the likelyhood of multi-tenants in their thought process.

So I do think Sun’s appraoch is actually a decent example of why exit strategy matter. When we bulit the Newark site in the late 90’s, the probability that Sun was going to be gone as an independent company and that that site would no longer be needed less than 15 years later was non-zero (hence thought given to exit) but certainly low. Morality: alwas factor the non-zero probability in your plan.

But I will still give Steve Jobs a pass on just about anything and I can’t wait to be at the Grand Opening of the Space Ship.

4. Keith Warner - June 12, 2011

As a Cupertino resident and operator of an Office Business Center in Cupertino that actually shares a building with Apple, I have always been a very interested observer of Jobs and Apple’s real estate trends.

I remember in 94-96 when Apple had completed their current campus at 280 and DeAnza Blvd. and started the process of abandoning essentially every building around Cupertino except One Infinite Loop. Market rates took a dive and several smaller businesses took advantage of favorable renewal rates.

I can only assume that same sort of thing will happen as they release buildings around the city they don’t need come 2015.

It’s interesting to see the impact one company has on a smallish city when their office space needs change. Not to mention the impact on housing, which so far has been very favorable!

5. Bob Cook - June 16, 2011

Yes, This Apple HQ seems to be based in the aesthetic of the classicists…. Ledoux, Boullee from the 18th C and Mies van der Rohe from the 20th C. It may not be humanely-scaled.. but I suppose there’s a place for all sorts of architecture in this big world. The analogies to the Pentagon seem appropriate. Just like Apple, the Wartime Defense Dept needed a way to get a lot of people very close togther. If they had the technology back then to make curves easily (and, BTW, I’m not sure we do yet now) maybe we’d now refer to the Defense Dept, not as “the Pentagon:, but as “the Circle”.

6. resourcesuites (@resourcesuites) - October 4, 2011

Apple has the money so why not build on a whim. When they go out of business, there will be another new tech company to fill their shoes and space. ship.

7. Andy Fuhrman, IFMA Fellow - May 19, 2012

Having been involved with Philippe Kahn, CEO of Borland International when he decided to build a new corporate campus at the old Santa’s Village location in Scotts Valley, many suppliers and advisors expressed their concerns about building one big, contiguous building in lieu of multiple 50ksf buildings in case there was a decline in business and the need to lease or dispose of some square footage. Philippe was enamored with famed architect Kevin Roche’s designs to the point of disregarding higher scores of other local design firms work. When the time came, which was rather quickly that Borland was on the decline, they encountered significant trouble with offering space for lease due to exiting, HVAC and other related issues. Hopefully Apple’s design will consider these issues for their new site when the time comes to downsize. Here’s a video of Kevin Roche describing his design http://youtu.be/x_ZZHAZYD_Y

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