Fortune’s Philip Elmer-DeWitt says that even at an international conference of 6,000 architects, he couldn’t find a single one who liked the spaceship design of Apple’s new campus building. Though if the single quote given is representative of the quality of the critiques, this may not be saying much.

“Does it have to be a spaceship?” asked an official at the American Institute of Architects.

Pixar president Ed Catmull wrote in his book Creativity Inc that they are failing to understand a key feature of the building, derived from a lesson Steve Jobs learned when leading the design of Pixar’s headquarters …

It was, says Catmull, the Disney Animation building Northside that clarified Jobs’ thinking on how a building should work.

He saw firsthand the way that the Disney people took advantage of the open floor plan, sharing information and brainstorming. Steve was a big believer in the power of accidental mingling; he knew that creativity was not a solitary endeavor […]

Everything about the place was designed to encourage people to mingle, meet, and communicate, to support our filmmaking by enhancing our ability to work together.

When you read about everything from Steve’s design philosophy to his choice of materials on the Pixar headquarters, you could be reading instead about the spaceship campus whose design he would later lead.

Steve had thought all this through with the metalogic of a philosopher and the meticulousness of a craftsman. He believed in simple materials, masterfully constructed. He wanted all the steel exposed, not painted. He wanted glass doors to be flush with the walls

Architect Norman Foster said earlier this year that while the building is huge, its openness was a key design consideration.

Of course, you have got an enormous range of skills in this building—from software programmers, from designers, marketing, retail—but you can move vertically in the building as well as horizontally. The proximity, the adjacencies are very, very carefully considered.

Steve Jobs personally presented the plans of the Apple Campus 2 building to the Cupertino City Council back in 2011. We’ve since seen detailed models and renders of the building, and even a full-size mockup of a section of it.

A recent aerial shot of the construction site shows the spaceship ring now clearly visible, with construction expected to be completed in 2016.

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55 Responses to “Architects hate Apple’s spaceship design, but Pixar president says they don’t understand”

  1. I honestly love it. It’s different and a tad unusual (yes, it looks like a spaceship) compared to other buildings. It gives it a very unique appearance though, and I bet in time it will be as iconic for it’s design as it will be for the company that inhabits it.


    • This is a STUPID design. I mean its just as dumb as Apple itself. ( And why is the company named after a food? Really??) Do you know how long it is going to take to get to one side to the next? You have to walk in a circle!!

      Liked by 1 person

      • randomkhaos says:

        It is not as dumb as you are. Q: What is in the middle of the torus? A: An open space for walking around (or in your case a straight line) and gathering with others. California is outdoorsy because of its weather. Why should office workers be hermetically sealed inside a cube if it isn’t necessary? One doesn’t go from $0.00 to being one of the richest companies in history by being stupid. Nor make product that inspires unreal loyalty and jealousy of those who use ‘the other guys’ stuff. Go outside and breathe some oxygen.


  2. All the other architects are bummed out because they didn’t get the award to design it. It’s a manifestation of envy, jealousy and insecurity.


  3. Kyler Finn says:

    Innovators, forward thinkers and visionaries are rarely rewarded by their peers. I mean, like, how many artists bros liked Picasso when he started Cubism? Nadie, that’s who.


  4. >Does it have to be a spaceship?

    What kind of an architect doesn’t like spaceships..? They’re an opportunity to be creative, virtually without limits to form or function.
    “Does it have to be a spaceship?” is a question that can only come from someone who has lost his passion a long, long time ago.


  5. iJonni says:

    They just don’t really know anything about it and are commenting based on sensationalist articles. Because if you read anything from the firm that designed it, or seen Steve’s presentation, you’d know that it is firstly, NOT a spaceship. It is an Infinite Loop. And the blend of steel and curved glass is iconic. One word here sums it up: haters.


  6. leifashley says:

    Gorgeous build design and ascetics. My guess people like the Treo more than the iPhone, until the iPhone was released.

    Well Apple will continue to innovate in everything it does while the rest of the world builds square buildings…


  7. Laughing_Boy48 says:

    I’m no architect but it sure seems to be an attractive design. I couldn’t say if it is very efficient or not because I’ve only worked in vertical buildings. Unless there’s some moving platform or conveyance inside, it would be a chore to get to the other side if you needed to. Whatever Apple does there always seem to be a whole lot of people against it. I’ve heard any number of architects say they don’t like our current steel and glass vertical buildings because they’re so dull and common. I guess Apple can’t please anyone nowadays.


    • Walk through the central court yard. Problem solved.

      The idea of the building is you walk around and run into everyone and have much higher potential for spontaneous conversations and possible new amazing ideas.


      • The article also seemed to suggest this (as in the Pixar HQ) though I don’t see that too realistic due to the scale.


      • vkd108 says:

        Inclement weather could hinder your first proposal, whilst in principle I agree with your second, that could provide a more fun way of earning your wages, although not from a productive point of view.


      • For some reason, I can’t reply to vkd108 so I’ll post this way if you don’t mind.
        “Inclement weather could hinder your first proposal, whilst in principle I agree with your second, that could provide a more fun way of earning your wages, although not from a productive point of view.”

        Inclement weather? In Cupertino that is rare.


  8. Well I did not see that coming from an architect. I thought they were suppose to be creative and forward thinking. Either they are jealous like someone already said in the comments, or they are lazy to build the building because of the hard work it’s going to take to build it.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. krakowian says:

    I like the concept, but for me, I would hate to work in such a place. I need my privacy and quiet. Such openness, without an ability to retreat would make my life miserable. I do hope that they have taken this into account, because I am sure I’m not alone.


  10. I think the spaceship is a really awesome design i don’t understand why people think it’s ugly it’s retro it’s modern it’s the new apple campus.


  11. Chuck says:

    As a retired Architect, I find it hard to believe not one out of 6000 Architects liked the design. To me it is very futuristic, clean and as a famous Architect liked to say “Form following Function”.


  12. Tom Maguire says:

    And being a circle it maximizes the area for the least amount of perimeter. Very Jobsian.


  13. The goals:
    1) “Everything about the place was designed to encourage people to mingle, meet, and communicate, to support our filmmaking by enhancing our ability to work together.”
    2) “The proximity, the adjacencies are very, very carefully considered.”

    A circle seems like a very poor design choice for these goals. Mathematically, the distances between any two random people is going to be way further apart using a circle vs block design. That is one factor in why cities are typically in block formation. Whether you love it or hate it, the design does not promote cross-pollination of ideas.


    • Jesse Couch says:

      You’re missing the point – Jobs believed in the power of “accidental” mingling. Basically, you’re walking by your co-worker on your way somewhere else, and something that they’re working on piques your curiosity. The point of the structure is not efficient, point-a-to-point-b travel; the point is to create a collaborative environment where everyone can see what everyone else is working on. I work at a digital agency that uses this same basic technique, and I can personally vouch for its effectiveness.


    • Your dismissal of the circular design doesn’t take into account multiple levels, the tendency to organize people by function, and the ability to walk across the open courtyard.


  14. Just goes to show you can never under-estimate someone else’s complete and under lack of vision.


  15. gargravarr says:

    The thing that makes me laugh is that they’re obsessed with the idea of it being a spaceship. Where did they see this “spaceship” design? Movies aside, no actual machine that humans have built to go into space has been circular, so does this mean that these architects are in contact with aliens?


  16. acslater017 says:

    Right. It would have so much more visionary if it was a boxy suburban office park, traditional phallic design, or edgy angular thing with garden roofs.


  17. The only thing that bug be is that they keep calling it the Spaceship. its not a spaceship its a Torus. and one of the design features is the the way the building will use nature light sources to illuminate the building.


  18. saoir says:

    Architects HATE great designs that they don’t come up with.


  19. I guess the AIA critics never saw 2001: A Space Odyssey.


  20. herb02135go says:

    I guess maybe the spaceship campus won’t have a bronze version of Job’s behind for homage – paying.

    There is a reason most buildings are not round.
    This 21st century cubicle farm won’t be efficient. It will mark the demise of the company.
    Mark my words (unless they are deleted by those who vomit over critical thinking).


  21. amfalco says:

    Architects are selfish, pompous & egocentric. Especially when they can’t appreciate someone else’s design; cause that person is getting all the attention & accolades. Trust me, I’ve worked for an international architectural software firm.


    • thats not true. architects learn architecture by studying buildingd by other architects! or in other words: buildings look like buildings because we know how buildings should look like: architect take therefore account of other architects work and showing their appreciation this way.


  22. haters gonna hate… 😏✌


  23. Bob Hawbaker says:

    I’ve worked with a lot of architects. I found very few of them that appreciated another architect’s work. So this is no surprise. To them “vision” might have something other than a 90 degree angle, but not much more.

    Ted Turner, when he started CNN, had the same idea about staff mingling: no staff meetings, just short encounters.


  24. vkd108 says:

    With all this talk about circulatory mingling, where will that leave Sir Ive’s top secret lab? In his own, purpose-built, secluded underground cave?


  25. randomkhaos says:

    Just like a Mac – the design is a result of its function. Not being approved by the people who have junked up the American urban landscape with their ‘statements’ is better than their approval if thought upon.


  26. As an architect, I can say that not all architects hate the building. I think it’s lovely.


  27. randomkhaos says:

    Agoraphobic, perhaps, or maybe has never been allowed out.


  28. I think the building is designed quite nicely. I for one like the idea of a “spaceship” building. It’s about time we start making our structures futuristic. If the idea is to get different people from different departments interacting so creativity and innovation starts sparking, then build it the best way to support that environment no matter how it looks.


  29. Attila Kb says:

    Creativity as well as productivity drops significatly when open floor plans are introduced into work spaces. Goode it…