Steve Jobs was known for his perfectionism, insistence on innovation, megalomania, and making workers’ lives miserable. Now that he’s gone, Apple’s quality control has slid. But Jobs’ final project, a new corporate headquarters, may be his most demanding tantrum of all.
In an absurd report, Reuters spoke to inside sources involved in the construction of the long-delayed Apple campus. While the building will break many traditions, some say the level of scrutiny and some of the design decisions are bananas.
When Jobs first set the plans in motion back in 2011, he estimated the new headquarters would open in 2015. That date has come and gone. According to Reuters, that’s because of exacting specifications that among other things include 30 pages of guidelines just for the special wood being used.
One former architect said, “With phones, you can build to very, very minute tolerances. You would never design to that level of tolerance on a building. Your doors would jam.” Standard construction projects allow for a measurement deviation of 1/8th of an inch but Apple’s project calls for tighter specs, even in areas that no one will ever see.
Many architects, project managers, and construction companies have worked on the gleaming doughnut over the years. Skanska USA and DPR Construction, the original general contractors, dropped out early for unknown reasons. The move was characterized as unusual for such a large project.
The main building’s most talked about feature is its use of the world’s largest piece of curved glass. Apple being Apple, pulling off that feat wasn’t enough. Managers insisted that “no vents or pipes could be reflected in the glass.” Another specification requires that all doorways be perfectly flat without a threshold. A former construction manager said he spent months fighting against that because it would be a drain on resources. Apple wouldn’t budge because “if engineers had to adjust their gait while entering the building, they risked distraction from their work.”
Brett Davis, regional director of the District Council 16 union for painters and related crafts, said, “It’s like a painting that you don’t want to touch.”
But really, it might actually be closer to the massive architectural undertakings that rarely occur in the modern world. Like the pyramids, Apple’s plans call for things that haven’t been done before, and the building was initiated by a dying ruler. Like the Vatican, it attempts to make a statement that this organization is a permanent presence on our planet.
That’s all a bit lofty to be sure. What we know is that Apple’s one of the biggest forces on the planet right now. The new headquarters might not last thousands of years, but hopefully, the Great Glass Doughnut of Cupertino will give the company the space it needs to bang out some great gadgets.