For much of the last year, a pyramid of dug-up earth has loomed over the 175-acre Northern California park where Apple’s future headquarters, a vast ring designed by Norman Foster, is rising out of glass and steel.
“Hard to know which is more beautiful, the building or that pile of dirt,” says Apple CEO Tim Cook with a wide smile on a recent morning, as he stands among the construction crew in their acid-yellow vests and gazes at the tall mountain of soil, its stepped surfaces painted a dark gold by the sun. Not a speck of dirt is to be removed from the campus; instead it will nourish a forest of more than 7,000 trees, which in turn will nourish a village of some 13,000 techies tinkering in silicon. In its current form, the pyramid suggests nothing so much as Giza brought to Cupertino, as if that ancient triumph of human hands had decided to seek an audience with the high priests of technology.
From aerial mock-ups, the building variously suggests a spaceship that has touched down gently in a clearing or a softened, highly styled Pentagon, sure to contain as many secrets. The $5 billion, 2.8 million–square foot structure was originally commissioned by Steve Jobs in 2009, in what Foster describes as “a series of rather amusing phone conversations.” Jobs waxed nostalgic about growing up amid the citrus groves of Northern California and wandering through the outdoor corridors of Stanford as an undergraduate. He took the architect to the cathedral-like building on the Pixar campus north of Oakland, which Jobs designed himself with the goal of keeping everyone and everything under one roof.