If you didn’t catch Steve Jobs presenting Apple’s plans for a new corporate campus to Cupertino (CA) City Council, then you really should check it out. A humble Mr. Jobs revealed an ultra-sexy Norman Foster designed new beehive for his company. As we all know, Steve Jobs has accomplished so much in his life, and this new campus comes across as a triumph for him. The design is very compelling, but it could be better in one major way: it could be less car-centric.
But the design should be viewed with a wider view and X-ray goggles. Here we can see what may become California’s largest underground depository of parked automobiles. (In fact, there is not enough room underground for all the cars and Apple will also build a large 4-story above ground parking structure as well.) Just peripheral of the campus are the traffic-clogged 280, 85, and 101 freeways. While Jobs mentioned a growing number of Apple employees commuting by bike and bus, it sounds like the site will offer a parking space to well over 90% of the total number of employees and visitors. While Apple’s new campus looks really modern, this is very much a last century “car-land” design.
FearLess readers know this is no time for business as usual. Humanity has a massive challenge to respond to climate change. We need to adopt low carbon transportation ASAP. By building a car-centric company center in a fairly suburban setting, Apple misses an opportunity to respond to this urgent need.
One way to reduce transportation impacts is to eliminate the need to drive in the first place. It is ironic to me to see an elite ICT company wanting so many of their employees work physically in the same place. IBM has a very large amount of their employees working from home offices. While Apple makes the tools for millions of us to tele-access our world, they don’t seem to believe in it for themselves--when it comes to their own company.
So Apple wants their employees to work together, press the flesh, and be in the same place. OK, I can understand that. So why not push this Foster design a little further. Instead of this 4-story ring design, add another ring or two and allow the site to house, let’s say, one third of the company’s employees and their families if they wanted to live there. Yes, I’m talking about making this an Apple company town or village.
There could be micro-dwellings incorporated into this site and still keep much of the same feeling. Ultra sleek micro-condos could be perfect for employees and families that wanted to live close to work and not need to own a car.
Even smaller dwellings could be designed into the plan for employees that worked fewer (but longer) days and needed a very simple and efficient personal place to sleep. A 3-day work week (12 hour days), would allow employees to only drive to work once a week and stay 2 nights in a place just a bit larger than the Japanese capsule hotels, but spend most nights a week at their home.
It would be challenging to re-vision this new Apple campus to incorporate dwellings, but if anyone could do it, it would be Norman Foster. It’s not Apple’s responsibility to make a model new corporate campus, and they have already gone past so many others. But the companies leaving suburbia for dense downtown office centers are likely doing more to address the need to redefine our world to be low carbon than Apple.