Some Apple employees proudly call it the “spaceship” and families from Santa Clara County come on Sundays to admire this strange circular building from afar. Welcome to Apple Park, the world headquarters of the American giant located in a suburban area of Cupertino (California), right in the middle of Silicon Valley. Designed in 2006 by the late Steve Jobs, this ring-shaped monument, worthy of a science fiction film, emerged from the ground in 2017 after three years of titanic work under the supervision of architect Norman Foster.
An Apple Store, a visit to the terrace of the Visitor Center for some distant photos and an augmented reality visit thanks to a model, that’s all that visitors have the right to enjoy from outside a site placed under high surveillance.
Clusters of employees returning from a coffee break all politely refuse to talk about this highly restricted workplace. Rarely, Apple has nevertheless decided to celebrate the return to face-to-face of its WWDC conference by letting one-day visitors – media and developers – immortalize the futuristic place where the white “Apple” dominates the color palette from the walls to the ceilings. .
At the entrance, you obviously have to show your white badge with a pink, blue or orange apple to enter the 1.46 km² campus and then head towards the impressive glass and aluminum structure where Apple security guards Security check that each employee validates his sesame.
Few employees arrive on foot, shuttles drop off every morning those who live in San Francisco an hour away. Most will park in the two giant parking lots. Just the one located under the giant circle has 3,000 spaces, while another can hold 6,000 cars. Deliveries arrive through tunnels that pass under the wooded hills around the site.
On its four floors, the Apple Park welcomes both the company’s senior executives and the cream of the engineering teams dedicated to devices such as the Apple Watch or the iPhone. The other teams, which are dedicated to services like Apple Music, have remained at Infinite Loop, the former historic headquarters, located 5 km away.
Officially, Apple Park can accommodate 12,000 employees but “we are at least 15,000 within the walls now and there is still room”, slips Joe, an internal developer who takes a bottle of sparkling water on the fly from a stand of the gargantuan cafeteria, the Caffé Macs.
Rows of wooden tables give the whole an impression of a beehive in full effervescence. For those in a hurry, it is even possible to pick up their pre-ordered dish on the eponymous application or to have a meal delivered directly to their office “balanced to the nearest calorie and at the level of a good Indian, Mexican restaurant. or Japanese” judges an employee. Other smaller cafeterias supply snacks to the members of this exclusive club.
To get to meetings and appointments in this gigantic complex divided into eight sectors, you sometimes have to walk around the 270,000 m² building. Self-service bikes are bookable through another app, or electric golf carts take care of more distant trips through wide driveways.
Surrounded by skilfully maintained vegetation, the HQ was designed, according to the will of Steve Jobs, as a transplant into nature. Powered by the generous Californian sun, solar panels provide 85% of the electricity needs of a building which is not connected to the local electricity grid but is totally autonomous. The relief was also used to convert the breeze into natural air conditioning. So much so that air conditioning only works three months a year in a country that likes to abuse it.
We almost forget that there was only a huge wasteland on this site, 7 years ago, after the demolition of the former headquarters of Hewlett Packard. Everything was replanted after digging up tons of asphalt and custom shaping. 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 appropriate the place too much, the guided tour will not take the paths of the offices where Apple jealously watches over its secrets. So head to the Steve Jobs Theater, another circular building and the setting for the brand’s public events, including the famous back-to-school keynotes.
The imposing building and its omnipresent marble look like a majestic mausoleum to the glory of the late boss of the Californian giant. His successor, Tim Cook, emerges from a staircase in a finely orchestrated arrival to take a walkabout. It is then time to teleport out of the spaceship.