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Apple Park drone videos, then and now

What a long strange trip it’s been

There’s plenty of work yet to be done on Apple Park, the $5 billion Norman Foster-designed circular campus that was iconic before it even broke ground.

South Bay drone videographer Matthew Roberts’ monthly aerial check-in on the structure reveals landscaping still underway (and behind schedule) within the building’s central ring, and restoration work still going on in the preserved 100-year-old apricot barn that Apple’s hallowed hoop displaced from its original location nearby.

Still, the bulk of the lauded loop is done after all of these years, and critics are weighing in.

The Financial Times’ Lucy Kellaway declared, “If I were an Apple shareholder, I would not be happy” with the expense, but does give props to the arena itself:

Apple Park is made for grown-ups. For decades office space has been built as if for primary school children. Google has been a world leader in infantilising its workforce. [...] Apple Park has turned its back on fun and is going for beauty instead.

Bloomberg’s Joe Nocera notes that while the remarkable rink is quite a feat of design and engineering, it suggests that Apple corporate culture may be stuck in the past:

What Apple Park suggests, though, is that the company hasn't yet moved beyond its founder. That has both upside and downside. [...] It also sends a message that money is no object, that every design whim can be indulged, even if it drives the cost up, and that the Steve Jobs way remains the only way.

And writing for the New York Times, Kathy Chin Leong singled out the granular quality of the design:

The entire project shows off Apple’s obsession with details. The custom windows were made in Germany and are considered the world’s largest panels of curved glass. One pair of glass doors is 92 feet high. The finish on the underground concrete garage, said David Brandt, Cupertino’s city manager, is so shiny it is almost like glass.

For local observers, the joining of Steve Jobs’ great ring has been largely an aerial odyssey. Major construction began right around the time commercially available drones become an affordable hobby.

Back in 2014, the first time news outlets noticed drone footage of the site appearing online, it was a mind-blowing moment.

That loud and windy footage (which now has over 4.5 million YouTube views) appears primitive by today’s standards, but it was a pioneering concept. In the nearly three years since, dozens of sky-high lookie-loos buzzed the building daily.

In comments to Curbed SF last year, Roberts credited the glorious girdle’s circular design as the source of its appeal. But more likely it was the thrill of at least being able to pierce the famous veil of secrecy around Apple as a company.

The public couldn’t always get specs on the latest iPhone or figure out what engineers were up to in some of their out of the way Silicon Valley workshops, but handy consumer technology (the backbone of Apple’s own business model) revealed the workings of its staggeringly expensive and massive construction.

Now that employees are finally set to migrate into Foster’s frieze en masse this summer, it is soon time to retire the monthly aerial overlooks as a regular feature (Curbed SF will, of course, continue reporting new developments at the great Silicon Valley circuit for years to come.)

For now, here’s one last look at the full-circle facility from above.

Apple Park

19111 Pruneridge Avenue, Cupertino, CA 95014