A little late to sharing this first look inside Apple’s new HQ by Steven Levy, but it’s just so, so good. So good, in fact, that it’s hard to pick even just a few things to quote. My own favorite parts:
We go upstairs, and I take in the view. From planes descending to SFO, and even from drones that buzz the building from a hundred feet above it, the Ring looks like an ominous icon, an expression of corporate power, and a what-the-fuck oddity among the malls, highways, and more mundane office parks of suburban Silicon Valley. But peering out the windows and onto the vast hilly expanse of the courtyard, all of that peels away. It feels … peaceful, even amid the clatter and rumble of construction. It turns out that when you turn a skyscraper on its side, all of its bullying power dissipates into a humble serenity.
And make no mistake whose baby this is:
The meetings often lasted for five or six hours, consuming a significant amount of time in the last two years of Jobs’ life. He could be scary when he swooped down on a detail he demanded. At one point, Behling recalls, Jobs discussed the walls he had in mind for the offices: “He knew exactly what timber he wanted, but not just ‘I like oak’ or ‘I like maple.’ He knew it had to be quarter-cut. It had to be cut in the winter, ideally in January, to have the least amount of sap and sugar content. We were all sitting there, architects with gray hair, going, ‘Holy shit!’”
Well, with the help of his favorite collaborator, of course:
During my tour, when we pass through an aboveground parking garage, Ive quivers with enthusiasm as he describes what we’re seeing. He points out how smooth the edges are on the concrete beams and how carefully molded the curves are at the rectangular building’s corners, like perfectly formed round-rects on a dialog box. Furthermore, infrastructure like water pipes and electrical conduits is hidden in the beams, so the whole thing doesn’t look like a basement. “It’s not that we’re using expensive concrete,” Ive says, defining what he calls the transformative nature of this parking garage. “It’s the care and development of a design idea and then being resolute—no, we’re not going to just do the easy, least-path-of-resistance sort of standardized form work.”
“This might be a stupid question,” I say. “But why do you need a four-story glass door?”
Ive raises an eyebrow. “Well,” he says. “It depends how you define need, doesn’t it?”
Which leads to:
Apple’s answer is that the perfection here will inspire its workforce to match that effort in the products they create, that the environment itself is meant to motivate engineers, designers, and even café managers to aspire for ever-higher levels of quality and innovation. (Francesco Longoni, the maestro of the Apple Park café, helped Apple patent a box that will keep to-go pizzas from getting soggy.) “We’re amortizing this in an entirely different way,” Ive says. “We don’t measure this in terms of numbers of people. We think about it in terms of the future. The goal was to create an experience and an environment that felt like a reflection of who we are as a company. This is our home, and everything we make in the future is going to start here.”
Last December, Cook, Ive, and Apple PR head Steve Dowling met with Laurene Powell Jobs, Steve’s widow. At the time, the campus didn’t have a name. One option was to brand the entire site after the company’s late CEO, but that didn’t feel right. A more intimate honor would come from lending his name to the 1,000-seat theater in the southeast corner of the campus. Not only had Jobs thought hard about what the theater should look like, but it will also be the stage for product launches like those he had so famously made his own. “It’s on a hill, at one of the highest points on this land,” Cook says. “It felt like him.”
And so his name will be on the theater. But anyone searching for Steve Jobs’ fingerprints on Apple Park will find them elsewhere—in the glint off the Ring’s curves, in the sway of the trees, and in the thousands of other details we can and cannot see.