The President of Pixar Has Something to Say about The New Campus of Apple Front The Critical of Architects

Although the comments of some of our own articles on the new Apple campus they already showed opinions faced by different architects, Fortune points to that the design by Norman Foster, subject to rejection by many of his colleagues, is simply the culmination of the vision of Steve Jobs about the important role of causal encounters fostering collaboration.

Ed Catmull, President of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios, speaks of the subject extensively in his book Creativity, Inc., published just a few months ago, and which then we offer an excerpt translated into our language.

The first concept of Steve for your design [of offices of Pixar] was based on some peculiar ideas had on how force interaction between people. In a team meeting to discuss these plans in 1998, several people stood to complain about its intention to build a bathroom for women and one for men. Steve gave, but felt clearly frustrated that people don’t understand what was trying to do: make people found. At first, Steve struggled to find the best way to allow this mutual experience.
Then, he imagined a separate building for each film in production. The idea that every team would benefit from having their own space content, free of distractions. I wasn’t so sure about that, so I invited him to a small road trip we did. Show, don’t tell, it worked best with Steve, so I persuaded him to you were to the South of Burbank to walk the four-storey building of glazed glass and aluminium on Thornton Avenue known as Northside. Disney Animation had occupied it in 1997 to house the team in his first animated film in 3D, dinosaur, among other projects…
After an hour or so wandering around the place, I realized that was receiving the message: creating buildings separated for each film would be isolating. He saw first hand the way in which the people of Disney leveraged an open space, sharing information and ideas. Steve was a great believer in the power of the accidental mixture; He knew that creativity was not a solitary task. But our trip to Northside helped to clarify that thought. In a creative company, separate people in different silos, project A, project B there, it may be counterproductive.
After that trip, he met again with their architects and established the principles for a single building… The whole place was designed to encourage people to interact, meet and communicate, to support our film by improving our capacity to work together.
At the end, Steve presided over every detail of the construction of our new building, from the steel bridges in an arc which are situated in the central atrium to the type of chairs in our screening rooms. I wanted no barriers, so the stairs were open and welcoming. He wanted a single entrance to the building, so we saw each other to enter. We had rooms of meetings, a room of mail, three theatres, a play area and a dining area connected by the central atrium (where to this day, everyone gathers to eat, play ping pong, or be informed by Pixar leaders about what happens in the company). All this resulted in a cross traffic from people finding each other throughout the day, without realizing it, which meant a better flow of communication and increasing the possibility of chance meetings. Feel the energy in the building. Steve had thought all this through the metalogic of a philosopher and the thoroughness of a craftsman. He believed in simple, masterfully constructed materials. I wanted to all exposed, not painted steel. I wanted to glass walls flush doors. It is not surprising that when opened in the fall of 2000, after four years of planning and construction, the people of Pixar, which normally dedicate four years to each film, they came to call the building “the filming of Steve”.

Maybe that Steve is not to see the premiere of his new film, but I am sure that the mothership of the Apple with its central garden as route shorter (and attractive) to cross from one point to another building, will be a success for 12,000 workers from Apple that will gather there every day. Especially if we take into account that these same employees have achieved despite being separated in about thirty buildings throughout the city of Cupertino.