Norman Foster on collaborating with Steve Jobs on the upcoming Apple Spaceship project

Architectural Record has a wonderful interview with the one and only Norman Foster on super-sized buildings. Since I’m currently reading Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs, I was particularly interested in Jobs’ collaboration with Foster on the design of the forthcoming “Apple Spaceship” that will eventually provide a home to the company’s headquarters.

It’s interesting how it evolved. First of all, there was a smaller site. Then, as the project developed, and the Hewlett-Packard site became available, the scale of the project changed.

Meanwhile, the reference point for Steve [Jobs] was always the large space on the Stanford campus—the Main Quad—which Steve knew intimately. Also, he would reminisce about the time when he was young, and California was still the fruit bowl of the United States. It was still orchards.

We did a continuous series of base planning studies. One idea which came out of it is that you can get high density by building around the perimeter of a site, as in the squares of London. And in the case of a London square, you create a mini-park in the center. So a series of organic segments in the early studies started to form enclosures, all of which were in turn related to the scale of the Stanford campus. These studies finally morphed into a circular building that would enclose the private space in the middle—essentially a park that would replicate the original California landscape, and parts of it would also recapture the orchards of the past. The car would visually be banished, and tarmac would be replaced by greenery, and car parks by jogging and bicycle trails.

The facility is designed to accommodate 12,000 full-time employees, while providing fitness space for all 20,000 Bay-area employees and a world-class presentation facility for product launches, town meetings and whatnot. Altogether, there will be approximately 2.8-million square feet of enclosed space on 176 acres.