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A Quick Look at the Apple 'Spaceship'

Artist's rendering showings the proposed new Apple campus in Cupertino, California

Photograph by City of Cupertino via Bloomberg

Artist's rendering showings the proposed new Apple campus in Cupertino, California

Apple has released a short video on the design of its forthcoming flying-saucer-shaped headquarters with appearances by Sir Norman Foster, whose firm Foster & Partners designed the 176-acre compound, and the project’s lead architect, Stephen Behling.

There aren’t any surprising new details beyond our story from last year on the campus, but there is some new background. Foster says he got a call from Steve Jobs “out of the blue” in the summer of 2009, and three weeks later he was in Cupertino discussing Jobs’s desire to create a campus that would harken back to the more agricultural California of his childhood.

“It didn’t start as a circular building,” Foster says. The shape has raised eyebrows, because it separates people rather than bringing them closer together. Jobs wanted a “great park” of trees and other greenery, and the circular design emerged after many iterations. While the architects tweak the design, the demolition of the former home of Hewlett-Packard’s computer division is in full swing.

Behling, who joined Foster’s firm in 1987 and has worked on hallmark projects from the Reichstag to London City Hall, is clearly pushing the state of the art in the use of glass and sustainable architecture with the Apple project, slated to open in 2016 at the earliest. The building’s facade will mostly be comprised of about 6 km of massive panes of curved glass; making sure the panes would hold their unusual shape required the development of new laminating processes. The entire facility is designed to be carbon-neutral, given its use of solar cells and natural ventilation wherever possible.

Burrows is a senior writer for Bloomberg Businessweek, based in San Francisco.

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