Apple’s new corporate headquarters, the giant spaceship-like donut in Cupertino, California, is nearing completion. As the last of the solar panels and drought-tolerant trees were installed, Wired’s Steven Levy was given a look at what it will be like to work at the new campus, and a good bit of history on how the project came to be.
Throughout the magazine’s June cover story, details about Apple’s late founder Steve Jobs’ vision for the headquarters emerged. The new campus is meant to unite under one roof workers who have been housed at disparate offices, in an effort to breed collaboration and inspiration. It is dotted with thousands of trees and an air-conditioning system that sucks outdoor air in to remind employees of the environment outside.
The campus was built to the sort of exacting specifications that Apple customers have come to expect from the company’s products. The headquarters design team, led by Apple’s lead designer Jony Ive and Norman Foster, the architect behind the firm Foster + Partners, attended to all kinds of details—ensuring, for instance, that the project’s glass canopies wouldn’t take on the greenish hue typical of most glass panels (it comes from the iron in the sand) and instead would gleam as brilliantly white as a 2001 iPod. They also determined the perfect angle to set the panes so they wouldn’t show streaks after it rained.
The facility will be a pantheon for the healthy, career-focused Silicon Valley type. Wired notes:
In addition to weights and a two-story yoga room, the 100,000-square-foot Fitness & Wellness Center offers employees access to medical and dental services. “I’m a big believer in people staying active. It’s something that makes them feel better and more energetic,” [Apple CEO] Tim Cook says. “It’s all about the fixation on the customer, and the customers here are our people, our employees.”
What’s notably missing from the 175-acre headquarters, however, is a childcare center—probably not a big deal to workers who don’t need to leave the mothership to tend to such worldly pursuits as child-rearing, but a missed opportunity, given Apple’s prominence as an employer, to redefine the relationship between work and home life.
On-site childcare remains a rare feature in corporate America. But it’s been shown to do wonders for parents of young children. Its presence has helped Patagonia, for example, to retain 100% of the women on staff who have had children over the past five years. (The average in the US is under 80%.)
But this campus, we are reminded throughout Wired’s story, is Jobs’ legacy. And despite fathering four children, three with wife Laurene Powell Jobs and another from an earlier relationship (whom he acknowledged only after a court-ordered paternity test), Jobs seemingly never used his influence to change the debate over work-life balance. There was no time to perfect that—not when so much of his life went into perfecting the work.