ON A SUNNY DAY in May, Jonathan Ive —Jony to anyone who knows him—first encounters a completed section of Apple Park, the giant campus in Cupertino, California, that has turned into one of his longest projects as Apple’s chief designer. ... With Apple Park, Ive is ensconced as master of the house, which means he has also inherited the burden of proving that Apple’s best days aren’t behind it. Apple hasn’t had a breakthrough product since Jobs died. The iPhone’s sales growth has stalled, and expectations are high that a 10th-anniversary phone will arrive later this year and will be markedly more advanced than previous versions. In other technologies, from digital assistants to driverless vehicles to augmented and virtual reality, Apple seems to lag other tech giants, including Google, Amazon and Tesla. Its new voice-activated speaker, HomePod, unveiled in June, will arrive on the market in December, three years after Amazon’s Echo.
The scattering of thousands of Apple employees across more than 100 sites in Silicon Valley has rendered more difficult the collaboration necessary for innovation. “We didn’t plan our growth, and then when we saw our growth, we were so engrossed in trying to push things forward that we didn’t spend time to really develop the workplace,” says Cook. “We’ve done a really good job of working around it, but it’s not the way we want to be working, nor does it represent our culture well.”
Like other Ive designs, Apple Park seems poised to become an icon. In an acknowledgement that the campus will attract interest beyond its employees, there will be a visitor center and a store selling items unique to Apple Park. Drones manned by aficionados have documented from the air the emergence of the futuristic ring-shaped building and the Steve Jobs Theater, a glass-walled auditorium that seats 1,000.
Ive likes to emphasize how the perception of the 2.8-million- square-foot ring is less imposing and powerful from the ground. As one looks out from inside the ring to the west, the opposite side of the building seems to set the stage for the Santa Cruz Mountains beyond. “When you’re in the parkland,” he says, referring to the 30-acre landscaped area that will form the center of the ring, “it’s not dominated by built structure at all.”
During Ive’s visit, trees heavy with summer stone fruits were waiting to be planted in the center of the ring to create the parkland. These will be regularly harvested to provide fruit for the campus kitchen.
Some of the greenery has already taken root around the ring, leading to a surprise that Ive hadn’t foreseen in prototyping. The tinted-glass canopies that jut out from each floor like the brim of a hat are so luminous that they reflect what’s above and below, casting a green glow from the trees into the hallways.
In the next few months, Ive will transition from being the creator of Apple Park to one of its thousands of users. His design team is scheduled to be one of the last to move into the new headquarters this fall—around the same time as the event at which Apple has typically unveiled its new iPhone. The next frontier Ive faces, beyond reinventing a greatest hit, is how to further embed technology onto our bodies and into our homes, using devices such as the Apple Watch, AirPods and HomePods as the beachheads for collecting data and tracking ourselves. “Everything we design and make in the future is going to start right here,” he says.