Why Apple Park is Steve Jobs’ final project

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Steve Jobs, creator of the iPad and created on the iPad.
Steve Jobs played a major part in developing Apple Park.
Photo: Jeremy Martin

Apple’s epic Apple Park campus is more or less complete, and it’s celebrated in a great new Wired cover story, written by one of the best Apple journalists out there.

In the article, Steven Levy — who has had the inside scoop on Apple since the 1980s, and written two great books (The Perfect Thing and Insanely Great) on the company — makes a great argument that Apple Park is nothing less than the final product of Steve Jobs himself.

Here’s why:

As is well known, Steve’s plea to the Cupertino City Council to build Apple Park was his last public appearance. However, despite passing away years before anyone broke ground on the new headquarters, Jobs was heavily involved with its design — which goes back as far as 2009.

This involved coming up with a design that reflected an idealized California of Jobs’ youth, a layout that would make serendipitous meetings possible, and even personally finding the right tree expert for the garden. At one point, Jobs apparently insisted that the design the architects were working on was scrapped after Jobs’ son pointed out that it looked like male anatomy when viewed from the sky.

One interesting observation is that the 100,000-square-foot fitness and wellness center includes distressed stone “to make it look like the stone at Jobs’ favorite hotel in Yosemite.”

At one point in the article, one of the designers notes that Steve:

“knew exactly what timber he wanted, but not just ‘I like oak’ or ‘I like maple.’ He knew it had to be quarter-­cut. It had to be cut in the winter, ideally in January, to have the least amount of sap and sugar content. We were all sitting there, architects with gray hair, going, ‘Holy shit!’”

Jobs also came up with the idea of having sprinkler heads in the stairwells, for producing a dense mist in the event of a fire. He was apparently “inspired by the way fire stairs work on yachts,” which he spent a considerable amount of time researching toward the end of his life.

Ultimately, Levy makes the case that:

“It’s probably more accurate to say that Apple Park is the architectural avatar of the man who envisioned it, the same man who pushed employees to produce those signature products. In the absence of his rigor and clarity, he left behind a headquarters that embodies both his autobiography and his values. The phrase that keeps coming up in talks with key Apple figures is “Steve’s gift.” Behind that concept is the idea that in the last months of his life, Jobs expended significant energy to create a workplace that would benefit Apple’s workers for perhaps the next century. “This was a hundred-year decision,” Cook says. “And Steve spent the last couple of years of his life pouring himself in here at times when he clearly felt very poorly.”

Interestingly, Apple shied away from calling the campus the Steve Jobs campus, with Cook previously telling an interviewer that “Steve made his views on that very clear.” Jobs’ name will instead be commemorated in the naming of the theater for future product unveilings.

You can (and should) check out the rest of Steve Levy’s brilliant article here.

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  • LRH

    Return If Possible, (RIP) Steve!