According to Reuters, the company made numerous demands as it prepares Apple Campus 2, more colloquially referred to as the "spaceship campus", to ensure a level of craftsmanship more befitting of a phone or watch than a building meant to employ 14,000 workers. Managers insisted that "no vents or pipes could be reflected in the glass".
Reuters on Tuesday published a revealing insider report on the Steve Jobs-approved design and ongoing construction of Apple's new "spaceship" campus in Cupertino, California, which is expected to be finished this Spring. The report notes that guidelines for handling the special wood used throughout the complex spanned 30 pages. In most buildings, the tolerance that materials are allowed to differ from specific measurements is about 1/8 of an inch.
It turns out applying the same design principals used to make a smartphone to a 2.8 million-square-foot building can make for a truly freakish construction experience. The construction team pushed back, but Apple held firm. Channeling the iPhone's seamless panel gaps, Apple mandated far tighter tolerances, even for inconspicuous surfaces.
"You would never design to that level of tolerance on a building", one architect said. "Your doors would jam".
The company's keen design sense enhanced the project, but its expectations sometimes clashed with construction realities, a former architect said.
Speaking of which, Apple was reportedly adamant that the doorways throughout the entire building be perfectly flat, with no thickness around the threshold. The logic was that if engineers had to adjust their gait while entering the building, they risked distraction from their work. "We spent months trying not to do that because that's time, money and stuff that's never been done before", a former construction manager said. This obsession with minute features is said to have set back other parts of the project.
Apple employees telling Reuters even the elevator buttons remind them of the iPhone's home button and the toilets seem to mirror the device's square shape with rounded corners. Basics like emergency signage, that typically would be a box-ticking exercise, have spiraled out into dozens of meetings as Apple's desire for minimalism butts up against legal requirements from the fire department.
Negotiations - and design revisions - of simple items like door handles have taken in excess of a year, sources say.