Apple's freshly completed spaceship campus was the final project of Steve Jobs, and its construction came with the exacting demands that he was known for. Jobs wanted Apple's employees to smoothly move through the headquarters without having to take a minute away from thinking about their work. The execution has reportedly gone so well that engineers are running right into the state-of-the-art glass that shapes the building.
Housing around 13,000 employees, Apple Park, as the headquarters is known, is a futuristic feat of engineering that contains the world's largest piece of curved glass. Apple CEO Tim Cook told 60 Minutes in 2015 that "the quality and the size" of the 3000 sheets of glass that have been used at the headquarters "are above all that has ever been accomplished". And according to a new report from Bloomberg, the glass is so flawless and unobtrusive that employees keep walking into it. From the piece:
Surrounding the Cupertino, California-based building are 45-foot [13.72m] tall curved panels of safety glass. Inside are work spaces, dubbed "pods," also made with a lot of glass. Apple staff are often glued to the iPhones they helped popularise. That's resulted in repeated cases of distracted employees walking into the panes, according to people familiar with the incidents.
Some staff started to stick Post-It notes on the glass doors to mark their presence. However, the notes were removed because they detracted from the building's design, the people said. They asked not to be identified discussing anything related to Apple. Another person familiar with the situation said there are other markings to identify the glass.
Is this a really big deal? Are people getting injured because Apple's ambitions to have a campus that's practically invisible have been executed too well? An Apple spokesperson declined to comment, but a representative for the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration in Silicon Valley directed Bloomberg to its website to check on reports of injuries. No records were found.
It's hard to imagine a more metaphor-packed scenario than Apple's products distracting its employees as they weave through a perfectly designed office and bang their faces into glass walls. The detail about the Post-It notes probably would have made Jobs smile. This was the guy who told users who were having antenna problems with the iPhone 4 that they should just adjust the way they hold it. No bodily injuries could justify a goddamn Post-It note on his glass.
In a Reuters profile last year, workers and contractors described a relentless perfectionism that went into the campus' construction. This little anecdote from the story turns out to be remarkably prescient:
"The things you can't see, they all mattered to Apple," the former construction manager said.
One of the most vexing features was the doorways, which Apple wanted to be perfectly flat, with no threshold. The construction team pushed back, but Apple held firm.
The rationale? If engineers had to adjust their gait while entering the building, they risked distraction from their work, according to a former construction manager.
"We spent months trying not to do that because that's time, money and stuff that's never been done before," the former construction manager said.
It seems that Apple really did have its workers in mind every step of the way, but there was one thing you can't see that it didn't take into account.