In June, Steve Jobs presented the Cupertino City Council with plans for a huge, spaceship-like headquarters for Apple. As with any Apple product, commentators were quick to fawn over the building's supposedly revolutionary design, and the council seemed to roll over in agreement. But now, one architecture critic is calling the building a "retrograde cocoon," and says it doesn't conjure the future so much as it does 1960s corporate architecture. Is it really so bad?
Yes. It's old-fashioned and isolated: Already, Apple "makes products lusted over by young urbanites around the world from deep within a quiet, low-rise realm, far from any skyscraper or subway line," says Christopher Hawthorne in the Los Angeles Times. The new HQ threatens to alienate Apple even more. The proposed building is isolated and inefficient, a prime example of "pastoral capitalism" and the suburban corporate sprawl that sprang up after World War II. It's "essentially one very long hallway connecting endlessly with itself."
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And it could stunt innovation: Being cut off from the outside world "doesn't bode well for a company's ability to monitor and understand markets or trends," says Chris Nerney at IT World. Companies like Microsoft and Research in Motion have fallen into a "self-referential mindset" — losing touch with what customers want and what the competition is offering. It's hurt them, and it's possible this new headquarters could lead Apple to also "lose touch with the outside world."
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But this building fits Apple: "There's a rightness in Apple striving to conjure up a compound that would evoke the aura of streamlined inevitability" that Steve Jobs has perfected, says John King in the San Francisco Chronicle. Plus, it's great to see Jobs bringing his sense of design to the thoughtless suburban office parks that have dotted the American landscape since the '60s. "If nothing else, Appledom as imagined by Jobs would challenge the conventional wisdom in Silicon Valley that one concrete shell is as good as the next."
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