Architecture snob John Pastier lambasts Apple’s proposed “spaceship” style campus

Thu, Aug 18, 2011


When Steve Jobs presented Apple’s plans to construct a new campus anchored by a spaceship style building, you could tell that Jobs was as passionate about the building itself as he is about Apple’s actual products.

“There’s not a single straight piece of glass in this building,” Jobs said about the proposed 4-story high spherical structure. “We’ve used our experience in building retail buildings all over the world. We know how to make the biggest pieces of glass for architectural use. And, we want to make the glass specifically for this building here. We can make it curve all the way around the building… It’s pretty cool.”

And in keeping with Apple’s efforts to be “green”, Jobs touted the planned campus as environmentally friendly, specifically pointing to an underground parking structure as to maintain the above-ground foliage and the buildings use of renewable energy sources like “natural gas and other ways that are cleaner and cheaper.”

Summing things up, Jobs said that Apple has put together some of the best architects on the planet to help create the “best office building in the world.”

This past weekend, more renderings and blueprints of Apple’s upcoming structure (assuming it passes a City Counsel vote) were released and it’s certainly an ambitious undertaking.

But not everyone’s impressed, and leave it to the Internet to house what we can only describe as architectural snobbery.

Now I admittedly don’t know much about architecture, but a recent op-ed piece from John Pastier in the Mercury News really takes Apple to task for their proposed spherical campus/office building of the future.

The preliminary concept as shown doesn’t support the claim of world’s best. It could have been produced by a talented student over a caffeine-fueled weekend. It’s unlikely that an isolated suburban megastructure could be the best office building in the world.

After complaining about Apple’s failure to educate the public about the thought process behind the design, Pastier lambasts Apple for not making any documents about the proposed building available to the public. After all, Pastier loudly writers, the public needs to be made aware of how much parking the new structure will create.

Now are Pastier’s claims thus far valid?


Again, I’m no architectural expert here but it seems that Pastier is jumping the gun a bit. I mean, Jobs first proposed this new campus to Cupertino’s City Counsel in early June. The campus is expected to be completed by 2015. I’d wager that Apple still has plenty of time to keep the public abreast of why they chose to go with the design they did and its affects on the environment at large. Indeed, isn’t that why Cupertino’s City Counsel has to first approve the building before work can commence?

Why so angry, Pastier?

Next, Pastier critiques Apple’s decision to create a circular building.

A building that large would undercut Jobs’ goal of human scale — imagine how un-intimate its 3,000-seat “cafe” would be. An inflexible and unexpendable circle is the opposite of what’s needed in a facility for a constantly evolving industry. If a huge circular shape insured architectural excellence, we’d see far more big, round buildings than we do.

If innovation is valued, does perpetuating a conventional suburban approach advance that goal? How does this arbitrary shape grow out of and relate to its setting and context? Its gigantic, rigid form will apparently swallow up a major street, Pruneridge Avenue. Is it a good idea to devote 160 acres to an office monoculture, or might the project be leavened by adding uses such as short-term lodging for employees and clients, and a first-rate computer academy?

Ummm, okay.

Jobs spoke at length about window glazing, describing it as curved, expensive, and using the world’s largest sheets of architectural glass, but he was mum about workplace quality and the employee experience. Will the spaceship provide an alternative to the industry’s ubiquitous cubicles? Will it foster staff interaction and creative exchange? Will navigating miles of corridors help productivity?

Man, you would think Apple was buying up land owned by Pastier himself.

Does Apple have a bad track record when it comes to workplace quality and the employee experience? No, so why the F is Pastier so adamant that Jobs should have addressed that. Pastier, here, almost comes across as a narcissist whose angry because Steve Jobs didn’t talk about the issues Pastier wanted him to talk about.

Further, I’m sure Apple will do whatever Apple feels is appropriate to create an innovative and efficient workplace. Cubicles, desks, open offices… who really gives a shit what Apple does? I don’t work there, Pastier doesn’t work there, so how bout we just trust that Apple’s streak of innovation won’t come to a screeching halt once they move into a new building.

And as for navigating miles of corridor? Well, that does seem like it might be a problem – but who’s to say that Apple won’t populate the building in such a way as to eradicate the need for employees to wander through “miles of corridors.”

Here Apple can learn from Facebook. The social networking upstart is remodeling a tech campus in Menlo Park to create human-scaled social spaces and using overhead garage doors to open up spaces to a walkable main street inspired by a Barcelona boulevard. This employee-centered, interactive approach seems more promising than a mechanistic sci-fi vision.

Okay, Pastier officially sounds like a grade-A douche. I wonder if he loves eating at human-scaled restaurants with open spaces modeled after the cobbled streets of Buenos Aires.

Gimme a break.

In short, Pastier sounds like a buzz-word generating moron whose ability to criticize apparently laps any semblance of his ability to do anything productive.

The spaceship will generate its own power and presumably have some green features, but, oddly, the power plant will rely on fossil fuel rather than renewable energy sources. Ironically, Apple’s architect, the British superstar Norman Foster, recently designed a fully sustainable, auto-free, zero-carbon city for 50,000 residents, called Masdar, near Abu Dhabi. Clearly, he hasn’t been asked to fully flex his ecological muscles in Cupertino.

Ah, nothing is ever good enough for ole’ Pastier.

Furthermore, neither Jobs nor Apple has ever mentioned Foster’s name in connection with their project. This makes one wonder how deeply they value architectural distinction.

Funny enough, Norman Foster’s architectural firm Foster + Partners is visible throughout the litany of blueprints and renderings that were released this weekend. Further, Norman Foster’s involvement was being floated around as early as December, 2010. Moreover, Jobs explained that they’ve assembled some of the best architects in the world – and yet Pastier, a curmudgeon by all appearances, is annoyed that Apple didn’t officially announce Foster’s name.


As if the world is filled with architectural snobs like Pastier who happen to know who Norman Foster is off-hand. I’m quite positive that the checks Foster and his company are getting from Apple more than helps ease the pain of not being mentioned explicitly by Jobs during his presentation to Cupertino’s City Counsel.

At the end of the day, Pastier is concerned with how a building appears while Apple is concerned with what’s going on inside.


9 Comments For This Post

  1. Name Doctor Says:

    Call it the “frisbee center” and make all the hippies happy.

  2. rps Says:

    “Now I admittedly don’t know much about architecture,”

    “Again, I’m no architectural expert here ”

    enough said..

  3. gizUlor Says:

    Prediction: when it is built everyone will gasp and try to emulate it.

    Check out the the architect’s website:

    You won’t find a single dud amongst Foster’s buildings – he’s good. Really good.

    Apple chose well.

  4. Kc Says:

    Sounds more like he is upset that he himself was not included in the design of the building.

    Those that point fingers are always the ones left behind, This guy is a waist of time and paper,this is a good writeup to show how upset some people will get when not included in one of the largest and most innovative design undertakings by the largest company of the most innovative product designs of our time.

  5. Bazz Says:

    A fixation on curved glass is OK provided that the building is energy efficient. Where is the solar power! Reduced dependency on air conditioning. Passive design would be better and cheaper than a curved glass fixation.

  6. AdamChew Says:

    “Jobs explained that they’ve assembled some of the best architects in the world”

    Well this low life certainly doesn’t fit the bill that’s why all the ihate.

  7. TomF Says:

    Architects are some of the biggest egomaniacs in the world. And at least one is a troll.

  8. AP Says:

    I agree with the artical written, nothing about the design of this mega structure implies that it was designed by any of the best architects in the world. Not to discredit Norman Foster, who is an excellent architect, but this is a simple case of an arrogant client controlling the design process. It seems to me like one more way for apple to build one more innovative product that costs way more money than is necessary for its purpose. In the case of the curved glass, innovation in architecture comes from problem solving through innovation in design, not by throwing money at enormous panes of over priced curved glass. The scale of the building is too large, too continuous and too expensive to be anything but a tragedy in the eyes of any architectural mind.

  9. Neil Anderson Says:

    Maybe they’ll get around the miles of corridors on Segways. 🙂

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