New 4K drone footage of the Apple spaceship campus shows considerable progress

Is a building designed for physical collaboration an anachronism in the era of Slack? We present some up-to-date drone footage, along with some questions worth pondering.
Written by David Gewirtz, Senior Contributing Editor

Apple may have been a bit stingy with its Mac upgrades earlier this week, but the company has been going gangbusters in the construction of what's become known as the Apple spaceship campus. You may recall that Steve Jobs himself pitched the campus to the Cupertino City Council a few months before he passed away almost exactly five years ago.

Well, time has passed, and the new Apple Campus 2 (as it's more officially known) has been progressing quite well. We shared some early drone footage in September 2014 showing where ground had been broken, and some of the earthworks in progress.

But it's been two years since then, and intrepid drone pilot Matthew Roberts has been surveilling the campus on a regular basis with his DJI Phantom 3 Professional drone.

In the video (which is presented in 4K for those of you who can't get enough of Apple), Roberts shows how construction has progressed considerably. In the main circular structure, he shows how the canopy containing a vast array of solar cells is making good progress. About half of the cells are already installed.

If you look carefully at about minute 0:51 in the video, you can see a line of construction vehicles inside the building's vast inner courtyard. What doesn't fully come across until you compare the size of those vehicles, which are massive in their own right, is just how large the spaceship structure is by comparison. This thing is huge.

As the drone flies, you'll see the Apple employee fitness center. At about 100,000 square feet, it is roughly the size -- all by itself -- of a Home Depot store. At the risk of repeating myself, that's a big building.

Also shown is the main R&D facility, which is not part of the circular space station structure itself. Although not visible, there's a hump in the ground where a tunnel is being built, leading to a garage that is supposed to be able to house 11,000 vehicles.

There are two main garages shown in the video. Roberts makes a point to mention that there will be 300 car charging stations. It seems to me that, for a company focused on energy efficiency and expecting to park 11,000 vehicles a day, having only about 3 percent of the spaces able to accommodate electric vehicles seems positively anti-Muskian.

At minute 1:39 in the video, there's a fly-over of a structure that looks surprisingly like an old Apple TV remote. If you know what it's intended for, please let us know in the comments below.

At minute 1:59, you'll see a small circular building. I've heard that's the entrance to the new product launch auditorium, which is apparently underground.

For those concerned about how Apple will be preventing leaks about future products, I'd like to bring to your attention the security "kiosk" (at minute 2:12 on the video), which looks to be about 90 feet long. From carefully looking at the surrounding objects, I'm estimating that "kiosk" itself to be roughly the size of a McMansion, at close to 4,000 square feet.

Overall, watching the video, I got the same impression I had during my visits to the Pentagon: this is a gargantuan building. But I have to wonder if the new Apple spaceship is a building being built for a time long past.

Back when Col. Leslie Groves headed up construction of the Pentagon in 1941, architect George Bergstrom designed it with the specific intention of creating a vast communications hub, a building where a tremendous number of people could work together. It was, essentially, collaboration software in building form.

The Apple spaceship, too, was designed for better collaboration. However, by setting the R&D facility off to the side, there are some physical barriers being set up between the new products teams and the rest of the company.

Ironically, we've reached a time in business management where we no longer need to colocate all of our people in one colossal 2.8 million square foot space. We now have tools like Slack, and even shared Notes and iMessage.

Does Apple really expect most of its staff to spend days hiking around the building from department to department, or is the company also planning on installing horizontal turbolifts? After all, if they can emulate the saucer section from a Federation starship, they can probably emulate some of the internal conveniences that made life on the Enterprise possible.

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