Apple’s ‘spaceship’ campus: more than a year to approve a door handle, and toilets like iPhones, report says

No wonder Apple’s gargantuan multi-billion-dollar “spaceship” campus created 13,000 full-time construction jobs and has fallen behind schedule — attention to detail approached the pathological, according to a new report.

Design for a single door handle took more than a year and a half to approve, and there could be no rise at the base of a doorway, because a bump at a threshold could knock all the code right out of some pondering engineer’s noggin.

So we learn from a Reuters report, based mostly on anonymous sources who had signed confidentiality agreements, on the exceptionally nit-picking design of the reportedly almost-done new headquarters building reported to cost $5 billion.

The late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs would stand up in his grave and cheer, no doubt, for it appears the 2.8-million-square-foot Cupertino structure embodies the meticulous approach to design that propelled the firm, on his watch, to world dominance.

As with an iPhone, everything, and we emphasize everything, in that building must be sleek and smooth and immaculately assembled, according to Reuters.

“When Apple tapped general contractors Holder Construction and Rudolph & Sletten to finish the main building in 2015, one of the first orders of business was finalizing a door handle for conference rooms and offices,” the report said.

“After months of back and forth, construction workers presented their work to a manager from Apple’s in-house team, who turned the sample over and over in his hands. Finally, he said he felt a faint bump.”

The construction team checked their measurements, down to a thousandth of a millimeter, Reuters reported. “There’s no friggin’ bump,” one can imagine them muttering. When Reuters’ source left the project after a year and a half of door-handle debate, “Apple was still fiddling with the design.”

Then there were the doorways. No thresholds, please — Appletons think very big thoughts, and must not be disturbed by lowly architectural features.

“If engineers had to adjust their gait while entering the building, they risked distraction from their work,” Reuters reported.

A special wood widely used in the building came with precise Apple specifications — about 30 pages of them, according to Reuters. Each of the thousands of ceiling panels reportedly had to pass muster with Apple’s in-house project team.

A retired deputy fire chief who represents the Santa Clara County Fire Department on the project said he went to some 15 meetings about safety signs in the building just to resolve the conflict between Apple’s minimalist aesthetic and the need for people to flee the building quickly in an emergency, Reuters reported.

Architect German de la Torre, who worked on the building, said that many of the facility’s proportions, such as the curve of a rounded corner, drew straight from Apple devices, according to Reuters, and some workers said elevator buttons looked like an iPhone’s home button.

“One former manager even likened the toilet’s sleek design to the device,” Reuters reported.

But the building echoes more than the firm’s iconic smartphone — it seeks to represent “something akin to the Platonic ideal of form and dimension,” according to Reuters. Apple execs “have arrived at design principles somehow through many years of experimentation, and they are faithful to those principles,” architect de la Torre said.

Before his passing, Jobs had said the building should open in 2015. Now, people involved in the project told Reuters, the beautiful monstrosity will go live this spring.

Unless there are no handles to open the front doors.


Image: A rendering of Apple’s “spaceship” campus (courtesy of City of Cupertino)


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  • ChunkyMonkey

    And in 1,000 years it will be decayed and forgotten. We are equal in the end.

    • MzUnGu

      Most building don’t last for more than 100, residential typ 30-40 yrs… Earthquake country… Anybody’s guess. 😛 Heck, The average lifespan of a company listed in the S&P 500/Fortune 500 is now at 15-50 yrs only.

      • Makikiguy

        Then there is that 50 story high rise in The City that might not last 50 months.

  • CM

    And this is part of the elitist attitude that permeates Silicon Valley.
    Their ‘aesthetic’ building is going to be a nightmare for the rest of us. Already traffic clogs up on 280 around Lawrence and Wolfe exits. I spent 20 minutes trying to get around that monstrosity when my GPS sent me there, only to discover one of the streets was completely closed off because the spaceship was now straddling it.

  • Simon Miller

    Apple is the cancer of the south bay. They have destroyed both Sunnyvale and Cupertino.

    • Retired man

      All those jobs.. For Shame!

      • Simon Miller

        You mean all those H1B visa jobs right?

        • Jones

          No, dumbo.

  • Retired man

    The obsession with a signature HQ bldg is a sign of a company’s death spiral. Look at the late Silicon Graphics building in Mountain View.

  • Wanderer

    Maybe we can ease up now with the hymns to “private sector efficiency.”

  • ChunkyMonkey

    I heard that each square on the 10,000 rolls of toilet paper they ordered has a super faint, barely perceptible image of Bill Gates on it and the urinal cakes look oddly like Steve Ballmer’s bald head…

  • Dock Brown

    A year and a half to OK a door handle? That’s nothing, try going with my wife to buy shoes…