6 Absurd (And Kinda Brilliant) Design Details From Apple Park

Apple’s attention to architectural detail may be excessive, but boy is the spectacle impressive.

6 Absurd (And Kinda Brilliant) Design Details From Apple Park
[Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]

Anyone following the $5 billion product development known as Apple Park–the company’s new 175-acre development on which a 2.8-million square foot Norman Foster spaceship has officially landed–will want to read the latest feature in Wired, which takes the closest look yet at the “insane” attention to detail within the campus.


It’s easy to be cynical about the sheer attention to detail that Apple has applied to its own campus. After all, the tech press has been staring at Steve Jobs’s final project, asking “what does this mean?” for years now–all while Apple has yet to release another hit product since the iPhone. Nonetheless, it is an incredible attention to detail, from the materials and engineering. Here’s what we learned from Wired:

[Image: United States Patent and Trademark Office]

Apple Has A Patent On The Pizza Boxes From Its Cafe

It’s not delivery, it’s…lunch brought back to your desk. For those who can’t take the time to eat in the 4,000-person cafeteria, Francesco Longoni, who heads the Apple Park café, helped Apple develop a patented new pizza box. It appears to have vents on the top to let steam escape so the pizza won’t get soggy in transit.

The Cafe’s Glass Doors Weigh 440,000 Pounds

The cafe itself is essentially a giant atrium, with floor and balcony seating. But despite the space’s size, on nice days two doors can be slid open to let the air in. Yet, thanks to their steel frames and 10 panels of glass, these doors weigh 440,000 pounds apiece–so Apple stuck machinery underground to silently open and close each door on command.

Jony Ive Saved The Day With A Trick From…iPods?!?

In one of the wilder details from the piece, Jobs consents to Foster that the building needs “fins”–shades that break the monolith’s circular silhouette to provide the broad, 45-foot-tall windows with much-needed shade. However, since all glass contains sand, and sand contains iron, the original glass fins had an unacceptably green tinge to them. In response, Ive’s own design team suggested a solution, inspired by their experience designing physical products like the shining white iPod. By painting the back of the glass white, and attaching it to metal sheets coated with white silicone, and mixing in a touch of pink to the white pigment, Apple got the shining, non-green aesthetic it wanted.

[Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]

 Apple’s Desks Have No Wires, Of Course

Apple’s workspaces are built in a rearrangeable pod structure around the ring. And in a moment of restraint, Apple’s height-adjustable desks are made from a custom timber veneer from recycled wood. They bracket into the wall with integrated fiber optics and electrical wires. And two buttons allow employees to raise and lower the desks. “Users can tell them apart by feel: The convex one raises the table, the concave lowers it,” Levy writes.

The Gleaming Stairwells Hack The Fire Code

The building’s stairwells are white concrete with arm rails molded into the walls. But they don’t require heavy fire doors mandated by code, despite being classified as fire stairs. How? Jobs argued that, much like on yachts, “in cases of flagration, glass encasing the stairwells should be drenched by high-­pressure sprinkler heads producing a dense mist,” Wired’s Steven Levy explains. The argument worked.


Apple Used Hydrodynamics To Keep Its Glass Spot-Free

Apple Park uses unfathomable amounts of glass, and anyone who has taken their car through a lazy automated carwash knows how water spots can form as drips dry. Apple designed its glass canopies scientifically to roll water away, rather than pooling it. That may not seem like a revolutionary idea–until you realize the research behind this particular shape was only published in 2006.

About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started, a simple way to give back every day.