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Architecture critic pans Apple's 'spaceship' campus as 'troubling,' 'scary'

A prominent architecture critic has panned Apple's plans for its new Cupertino, Calif., campus, suggesting it is a "wildly ambitious, over-the-top headquarters" out of sync with the company's beautiful and functional products.

Paul Goldberger of The New Yorker recently spoke out (via Apple 2.0) on the design of Apple's proposed new corporate campus. The massive circular structure, called a "spaceship" by Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, will house some 13,000 employees after it is expected to be completed by 2015.

Goldberger, who authors the publication's "Sky Line" column, has taken issue with the building designs from acclaimed architecture firm Foster + Partners. The critic likened the concept proposed by Apple to "a gigantic donut."

"Steve Jobs, speaking to the Cupertino City Council, likened the building to a spaceship," Goldberger wrote. "But buildings aren't spaceships, any more than they are iPhones."

He then went on to call the design "troubling" and "maybe even a bit scary" because he feels the giant circular shape lacks the functionality of devices like the iPhone, iPad or MacBook lineup. He said that architecture should take into account scale, while he feels Apple's new campus does not connect to human size.

"Flexibility is a hallmark of the iPad, and it counts in architecture, too, but how much flexibility is there in a vast office governed entirely by geometry?" he asked. "For all of Foster's sleekness, this building seems more like a twenty-first-century version of the Pentagon."

The new campus was previously compared to Washington D.C.'s Pentagon, demonstrating that the 1,615-foot diameter of Apple's proposed facility is larger than the government building. The new office, dubbed "Apple Campus 2," would comprise about 2.8 million square feet, including an auditorium that would hold 1,000 people, and 300,000 square feet of new research facilities.

Jobs had a different take when he unveiled the campus in June. He said the facility and adjacent parking structure would be only four stories high to preserve the "human scale" of the campus.

The criticisms from Goldberger of The New Yorker are not alone, as the architecture critic from the Los Angeles Times said earlier this month that he sees Apple's mega-campus as lacking in vision. Christopher Hawthorne feels the campus will wrap its workers in a suburban setting, creating a "retrograde cocoon."

Apple Cupertino Campus 2

Apple Campus

When Jobs introduced the proposed campus, he said that he feels his company could "have a shot at building the best office building in the world." He said Apple would leverage its experience in building eye-catching retail locations all over the world, and implement unique features like curved glass around the entire exterior of the facility.

Apple Campus

Apple Campus

Jobs also boasted that the plans called for the new campus to consist of 80 percent landscaping, increasing the number of trees on the property from 3,700 to 6,000. Apple also plans to supply its own power to the facility, using the city grid as a backup.

The new corporate campus must go through a number of government approvals before work can progress, but Cupertino Mayor Gilbert Wong has said that he feels certain the project will be approved.