Some thoughts on the new Apple HQ and how it reminds me of two IBM facilities designed by Eero Saarinen

I hadn’t thought of it, until I read this Iconic design for Apple headquarters could transform Silicon Valley landscape – San Jose Mercury News, and came across this comment:

San Jose architecture critic Alan Hess also questioned the function of “this huge circle.”

“How are people inside going to communicate?” he asked. “Are they going to be walking around miles and miles of corridors to get to a conference room or use an internal tram system? Maybe they will rely on computer connections.”

When I first thought of this, I thought, yeah, how will they do that. But then I remembered that IBM has two facilities, both designed by the great architect, Eero Saarinen, that have similarities to the new Apple HQ. The IBM facility in Rochester, MN, is very boxy, but it has great courtyards, just like the new Apple HQ has, and employees often go out into them to meet. The other facility that Saarinen designed for IBM was the T.J. Watson research center, and that is a big curve that also has similarities to the new Apple HQ (though it is a curve and not a circle.). Still, despite that long curve, IBM employees have no trouble communicating with each other at Watson, and hardly need a huge tram to meet.

I once read that Steve Jobs wanted Pixar to have one washroom area, for by having that, employees would bump into each other and be more likely to mix and mingle and share. I think the central courtyard in the middle of the new HQ serves the same purpose: employees will be bumping into each other all the time as they cut through it to meet people elsewhere.

I like the design of the new Apple HQ, and while it reminds me of the IBM facilities, it will be architecturally unique.


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