Some Apple employees proudly call it the “spaceship,” and families from Santa Clara County come on Sundays to admire this strange round building from afar. Welcome to Apple Park, the global headquarters of the American giant in the suburbs of Cupertino, California, in the heart of Silicon Valley. Designed by the late Steve Jobs in 2006 and worthy of a sci-fi movie, this ring-shaped monument emerged from the ground in 2017 after three years of massive work led by architect Norman Foster.
An Apple Store, a visit to the visitor center’s terrace for some distant photos and an augmented reality visit thanks to a model, that’s all visitors from outside of a strictly monitored site are allowed to enjoy.
Groups of employees returning from a coffee break all politely refuse to talk about this severely restricted workplace. Rarely has Apple nevertheless chosen to celebrate the return to presence of its WWDC conference by letting daytime visitors – media and developers – immortalize the futuristic place where the white “apple” dominates the color palette from the walls to the screen ceilings. .
At the entrance, of course, you have to show your white badge with a pink, blue, or orange apple to enter the 1.46 km² campus and then approach the impressive glass and aluminum structure where Apple Security Guards ensure that every employee has their security Sesame validated.
Few employees walk, but shuttles drop off each morning for those who live in San Francisco, an hour’s drive away. Most will park in the two huge lots. Only the one under the huge circle has 3,000 parking spaces, while another can accommodate 6,000 cars. Deliveries come through tunnels that run beneath the wooded hills surrounding the site.
On its four floors, Apple Park welcomes both the company executives and the crème de la crème of engineers dedicated to devices such as the Apple Watch or the iPhone. The other teams dedicated to services like Apple Music have stayed in Infinite Loop, the former historic headquarters, 5 km away.
Officially, Apple Park can house 12,000 employees, but “we’re at least 15,000 inside the walls now and there’s still room,” slips Joe, an in-house developer, who spontaneously grabs a bottle of sparkling water from a booth at the gigantic cafeteria, the Café Macs.
Rows of wooden tables give the impression of a beehive in all its glory. For those in a hurry, it is even possible to pick up their pre-ordered dish via the app of the same name or to have a meal delivered directly to the office “calorie-balanced and at the level of a good Indian-Mexican restaurant. or Japanese,” says one employee. Other, smaller canteens provide snacks for the members of this exclusive club.
To get to meetings and appointments in this gigantic complex, which is divided into eight sectors, you sometimes have to walk around the 270,000 m² building. Bicycles can be booked for self-service via another app, or electric golf carts take on trips further away through wide driveways.
Surrounded by artistically manicured vegetation, the HQ was conceived as a transplant into nature, as Steve Jobs would have it. Powered by the bountiful California sun, solar panels provide 85% of the electricity needs of a building that is not connected to the local grid but is completely autonomous. The relief was also used to convert the breeze into natural air conditioning. So much so that in a country that likes to abuse it, the air conditioning only works three months a year.
We would almost forget that 7 years ago, after the demolition of the former Hewlett Packard headquarters, this site was just a huge wasteland. Everything was replanted after tons of asphalt were dug up and custom shaped. A hundred year old barn even had to be moved and rebuilt identically to recreate an interior garden and install the now iconic rainbow at its heart.
No time to take too much ownership of the place, the guided tour won’t take the paths of the offices where Apple jealously guards its secrets. So be sure to visit the Steve Jobs Theater, another circular building and the site of the brand’s public events, including its famous back-to-school keynotes.
The imposing building and its ubiquitous marble look like a majestic mausoleum honoring the late boss of the California giant. His successor, Tim Cook, emerges from a flight of stairs in a finely orchestrated arrival for a tour. It’s then time to teleport out of the spaceship.