Recently my macbook perished on the coast of Kenya. It was a terrible moment. All the images, music and words accumulated over four years flashed before my very eyes. There was no light to be seen, only a dark, mac-less future. How can I survive without the macbook, I worried, which keeps the credit card companies from hauling me off to some seedy debtors jail on Wall Street?
Thankfully, because Apple is so cool, and so smart, they trained Nairobi technicians to resuscitate my only child for less than $100. Now Steve Jobs is collaborating with Norman Foster to build what is likely to be one of the most exciting urban architectural projects on the planet: The City of Apple.
Typical of Apple products, the plan is being kept under wraps. But here is what we do know:
In 2006, because its own office space is limited, Apple bought 50 acres of land in Cupertino, California. They then added to that by purchasing a further 90 acres from HP. Which means that Apple’s new city will span a total of 148 acres.
It is likely to be as sustainable as a project of that magnitude, and as the grandiloquent Norman Foster can muster.
Treehugger reports that the campuses will be linked by a network of tunnels – reducing the need to travel above ground from building to building (hopefully they won’t promise a personal rapid transport scheme, the likes of which ate dirt in Abu Dhabi).
The buildings will be powered renewably – which is easier to do in California than most places given that state’s commitment to incorporating solar and wind energy into its portfolio – and every effort will be made to maintain green surface areas.
Ok. So we don’t know much. But we can guess that Norman Foster + Steve Jobs will = nothing short of brilliance. Apple has a wonderful opportunity to set an example by engaging Foster’s more sensible and less bombastic side.
A lot of money has gone to waste in Masdar City – the city after which Apple’s city will be modeled. Foster will hopefully apply lessons from those fits and starts by pursuing something more modest in California. However, it is imperative, if the project is to be truly sustainable, that Apple source recycled building materials locally, use recycled water, and follow the strictest building standards.
Apple’s environmental record is not great. Knowing what we do about stuff – the lifecycle of a cell phone for example and all the metals that are necessary to create one – we can’t help but balk at the idea that Apple will become bigger still so that it can fuel an even greater desire for more products that the earth can scarcely afford. But it will be fascinating to see what the collaboration comes up with.
More about Norman Foster and his partners: