In defence of AC2


I think a lot of people, some of whom may be architects, fail to grasp the driving concepts behind the Norman Foster designed Apple Campus II project.  I am sure, given Apple's needs for secrecy, most of the architects working on the project are not allowed to discuss it openly, so I'll put my thoughts on the table in their stead.

I don't believe AC2 is a work of capital 'A' architecture, nor do I think it is intended to be.  Much like Apple software, which is designed to facilitate access to the content that people like, and the friends and family that people love, AC2 is intended to serve as a framework or infrastructure to enable Apple engineers to perform to the best of their abilities.  Nothing more, nor less.

Let's not forget, Apple hardware and industrial design is about first and foremost about accessing those applications and software that is intended to drive human consumption, production, and personal connection.  Likewise, Apple retail is about facilitating Joe Schmoe consumer to access those products.  Why should the concept of AC2 be any different?

AC2 is about enabling the average Apple employee and engineer to work in the best environment possible.  It's not about the 'building', the outcome of capital 'A' architecture at all.  Rather, to me, the building is merely a bit of infrastructure designed to allow Mr. Joe Schmoe Apple engineer to work everyday in a gorgeous environment, designed primarily by OLIN [the international landscape firm on the project].  Whether a connection to the exterior 'natural' landscape comprised of native 'wild' foliage or a connection to the interior 'orchard' comprised of faux-historical plants, the building is rather about facilitating a connection to the environment for the employee.  Hence the design intent for [what looks like] large pieces of curved glass, which have no mullions nor facets.  The typical engineer is then offered a sort of 'garden of eden' in which to conceive and construct the best products for people, human beings, to use and enjoy.  She is working in that garden, as much as humanly possible, for through its minimalism, the building itself merely serves as an infrastructure to power the equipment, while framing views to the brilliant landscape.

Yes, one could make the argument that the project fails to respond at all to the local, or municipal constituency, that it does not address its 'context'.  However, that argument is primarily an urban planning argument, not an architectural one.  That argument could plausibly be made against Apple, for continuing to invest in an environment which is supportive of the automobile as a degradation of urbanism.  However, let's face it, Cupertino is not a 'new urbanism' community, and it is not within Foster's scope to suggest a new site, nor develop new constraints on which to practice.

Approached on its own terms, the constraints given, Apple Campus II achieves its goal with skill and deference to the client on many levels.  Is it the perfect urban construct?  Of course not.  Does it facilitate the urbanism that America needs to re-embrace at the moment?  No, it does not.   However, if one asks the simple question:  Does AC2 allow its client to achieve their aspirations of an efficient, functional, and beautiful environment in which to work and create the products that effect so many of our lives?  Then the answer is of course only a resounding 'yes'.



Mar 25, 12 5:50 pm

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