For reasons that would take too long to explain I find myself in Durban, South Africa, this week at a gathering of 6,000 architects from around the world. I haven’t yet found one who likes Steve Jobs’ design for the new Apple headquarters — the Pentagon-sized edifice, now under construction in Cupertino, Calif., that Jobs described as looking a little like a spaceship had landed.
“Does it have to be a spaceship?” asked an official at the American Institute of Architects.
Jobs is not here to answer for his design, but Ed Catmull is.
Catmull, who worked with Steve Jobs for 26 years as president of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation, has written a terrific book called Creativity Inc. that ends with a long chapter about what that collaboration was like.
Jobs famously took a hands off approach to Pixar, sensing that the people there knew more about computer filmmaking and storytelling than he ever would.
Jobs’ main contribution was the design of Pixar’s headquarters — a job he took as seriously as the look and feel of any Apple product. As Catmull describes the process, it didn’t come easily.
Like Pixar, Apple has outgrown its current headquarters. Jobs worked closely with Sir Norman Foster to design a building that could accomodate 12,000 Apple employees and yet encourage collaboration. He pitched his plan to the Cupertino City Council in the summer of 2011. It was his last public appearance. You can watch it here.