Apple Campus 2 – The Size of a Town but Doesn’t Work as One

Been looking at the detailed drawing, by Fosters, for Apple Campus 2 recently published on the City of Cupertino website.

Its the size of a town. The site has a footprint larger than many. Most of the floorpspace being concentrated in a single building.

Its dysfunctional as a town, which is what something of this scale should be judged as. Over four thousand parking spaces would be several hundred metres from the main building. Once you get to the main building its several hundred metres to walk to the other side if you work there. And you can’t even walk in the desired line, you have to walk around a big circle. If you work opposite the cafeteria you lose 20 minutes of your lunch hour walking there and back, and the rest queuing.

If you drive under the main circle you might have to drive around it to the other side because of the length of walking. This will create backing up congestion – I hope they have done a microsimulation of the parking accumulation and waiting. Also the volume of pedestrians and traffic in some parts requires street widths, not corridor or parking lot widths. Again if I was the officer assessing this I would like to see some modelling, especially of the queues to the two counters of the 3,000 capacity cafeteria!

There is a good reason you don’t design towns as a single building – or even a spaceship – the principal of fractal locality. As you scale up things that should be close become far, so to retain the advantages of scale (see earlier post of why a City Scales like an Elephant) you have to introduce more and more local detail, like local shops, public spaces, gyms, meeting areas, resteraunts, cafes, bookshops.

Example of Fractal locality

Think of an airport terminal. Still designed as a building but with this kind of fractal localism, think of the number of different places you can buy a coffee before finally catching your plane. Another lesson of airports, travellators and magnetic trains, which is just what this site needs to get around.

Finally the scheme offers no visual markers to create a sense of place. Ironically the inspiration appears to be Microsoft’s Halo.

See the previous post Steve Jobs at a Planning Committee

Now Lib-Dem Junior Minister Andrew Stunnell misrepresents the #NPPF on design

And so it goes on. Letter in the Sunday Telegraph, they probably confiscated the laptop of Bob Neill MP for fear of what he might say.

Our streamlining of the planning system does not give the green light to development everywhere. Development will be expected to be sustainable and well-designed if it is to go ahead.

On many occasions on this blog we have covered the ‘development everywhere’ and ‘sustainability’ (defined so almost all development = sustainable development) issues but lets look at the design claim in terms of what the NPPF actually says rather than what spin doctors are pretending it is saying.

-Firstly there is no concept of good design as part of the definition of sustainable development on page 10, as delivering sustainable development is a matter of design at different scales how for one moment this will achieve sustainability has mystified me and many others. Either sustainability is about design or it is a meaningless mantra.

-Secondly the only role for design in the section on delivery of development is set out in para 18. and that is for developers only.

Those responsible for bringing forward development are expected to play their part by recognising and responding to the needs of communities. Development should be of good design and appropriately located.

No role whatsoever is given to the planning decision maker and local planning authorities to ensuring good design and that development is appropriately located. This would appear to be a deliberate intention of the practitioners group who one might surmise see planning as one of the ‘forces of stagnation’ – To use the Chancellors description of opponents of the NPPF – as opposed to the forces of degradation and mediocrity that support it you might think.
-The core planning principles in para. 19 do not include good design, so clearly it is of secondary importance. Neither by the way does it state that the location should be the best one for that use and be of appropriate intensity for the site. The most fundamental of core planning principles. If controlling the design, location and bulk of uses are not core planning principles the the NPPF is not a planning document, rather it is a deregulatory document seeking to prevent the exercise of planning.
-Finally if the minister thinks planning under the NPPF could reject schemes that are not well designed he would be wrong. It adopts a far lower threshold of design control, effectively reintroducing the minimal design control from 1980 (Circular 22/80), of ‘obviously poor design’, so for the first time in 31 years their would be a presumption in favour of mediocre, boring, dull, shoddy, ordinary, and even poor development – only the ‘obviously poor’ is restricted. (para 121). The role of planning to ensure good design, indeed the expectation of good urban design in current policy PPS1 and PPS3 would be deleted. It would be a license for the jerry built little box of the 1980s that created such a reaction against housing – how counterproductive.

Again either ministers haven’t read and understood the NPPF in relation to what it replaces or they are deliberately misrepresenting it. Which is it to be.

‘Sorry Girlfriend’ Architectural Critic gets upset at Barbie House Competition Winner

Lisa Rochon of the Toronto Globe and Mail on the competition we reported on last week

What Li and Paklar imagined was a series of glass cubes stacked on top of each other with enough space underneath the beach mansion for a car or motorbike to park. Very chic, very elevated, very Le Corbusier. The interiors (pink, of course) look airy, clutter-free and, with 4,881 square feet of living space, lonely for a single person. There are bamboo floors and a roof garden with natural irrigation. But even those tiny eco-design gestures cannot offset the fact that Barbie gets to hog a massive house on three acres of pristine West Coast beach. Sorry, girlfriend!

America has been damned by the tyranny of the excessively large house. …The O.C. Barbie once cavorted through her own shopping-mall playset. It was just something she had to have, like a purse. The problem with the McMansion scenario? It’s unaffordable and unsustainable. But, like Barbie’s impossibly small waist, it’s a dream that everybody is conditioned to want.

Barbie’s new home might have been urban, intimate and affordable – something along the lines of the studios that Li and Paklar occupy in Manhattan. But conventional wisdom in the nearly bankrupt United States says human-scaled, affordable spaces are unacceptable. Small may suit hard-core urbanists, but to many others, it’s anti-American and old world. Where do you put the double ovens, the colossal flat screen and the meditation room? As Li says: “For me, I like the density of New York much better than the McMansions of suburbia. But, for Barbie’s dream house, we wanted to make it as perfect as possible – without a budget.”

Could #HS2 have Double-Decker Trains and avoid large scale demolition west of Euston Station?

Just a thought as HS1 was built to continental gauges to potentially enable double decker (bilevel) trains in the future, and as on the most heavily used SCNCF TGV routes bi-level trains are used.

The potential advantage being the tightness of platform capacity at Euston, with it being inevitable that some existing platforms will be lost and a need (with current plans) for substantial demolition to the West to provide sufficient capacity. Could bilevel trains reduce the landtake? It might also be possible to introduce bilevel trains on sections of the WCML south of Birmingham if the existing tracks were rebuilt to a higher loading gauge.

Update: Informed that 45 of the 61 trains are to be UK1 gauge (unsuited to double deck), but it does raise the question of why to build a track to continental gaugue and run UK1 gauge trains on it, and what the different CB rations of different train and Euston footprints might be. The current rolling stock specification contains no clear justification.

‘Our civilization is to be either lost or redeemed in China’ – China’s First Eco-City

That quote is from Richard Register, author of Ecocity Berkely

Should China continue along its present route, adopting the Western model of production and Western patterns of consumption, it will quickly destroy both its own capacity for sustaining itself as well as accelerate the deterioration of the unsustainable global material and economic system

China Daily has a good piece on the Tianjin Eco-City project, China’s first.

Located in the Tianjin Bohai New Area, 45 km from Tianjin’s city center and 150 km from Beijing, it will be a city of 350,000 by the time it is fully completed in 2020.

It has already completed a start-up area of about 400,000 sq m, with more than 2 billion yuan invested on more than 17 projects including neighborhood centers, vegetable and fruit markets, supermarkets and schools, as well as civic support services such as police stations and traffic police posts. It expects its first residents next year in 2012.

Wang Meng, deputy director of the administrative committee of the eco-city, says the site was chosen largely because of its harsh conditions. One of the prerequisites the Chinese government imposed on this joint cooperation with Singapore (Surbana of course, who do new towns by the dozen) was that it must not take away any available arable land….

A local taxi driver told China Daily that the eco-city built on the deserted saltpans now look very livable.

His dreams may come true soon, because the eco-city also includes parcels of low-cost public housing designed for lower-income families – proving that the eco-city is for everyone, and not just for the elite.

Despite bumps in the road the project is progressing much better than failed, and corruption ridden, projects such as Dongtan near Shanghai (which Arup were disgracefully involved despite the project being an epic example of ecological devastation of a wetland area) with better long term planning, staff with implementation and construction expertise on the ground, and better understanding of Chinese sensibilities.

Lying with Statistics: Housebuilding and the Abolition of Regional Spatial Strategies #NPPF

The government has claimed that the uptick in the number of new houses built in the UK in Q1, likely to be repeated in Q2, was evidence that its policy of abolishing regional spatial strategies and regional targets was working.

Lets look at the underlying evidence.

This table shows NHBC registrations in the full year to Feb 2011.



December 2010 to February 2011

December 2009 to February 2010

England – Regions



North East



North West



Yorkshire &
the Humber



West Midlands



East Midlands






South West



Greater London



South East



Totals for England



Scotland –



Wales – Unitary



Northern Ireland
– Counties



Isle of Man



Totals for UK




As you can see growth was only strong in the one region that has maintained regional targets – London.

No doubt when the Q2 stats come out in the next few weeks DCLG will claim this as evidence of its policy working, when looking at the statistics it proves exactly the opposite. Those regions where targets have been abolished continuing to show historic lows, with small uplifts in a few regions offset by larger falls elsewhere.

Of course the underlying issue is that London is different. Hot money seeking a safe haven is boosting the upper end of its market. To be meaningful you have to strip London out and compare housebuilding outside of London year on year to have a true picture of the impact of the government’s botched planning reforms and the dramatic fall in housebuilding they have contributed to.

Spreadsheet Error Means that UK Construction not Booming

For a few brief hours on Friday it might have seemed that Uk construction was booming at 2.3% growth a quarter!

Alas the ONS had made a spreadsheet error and the real figure was a rise of 0.5% in the quarter.

The one piece of good news is that The volume of new private housing work in the second quarter of 2011 was 5.2 per cent higher compared with the previous quarter, this was offset by major falls to maintainance and repair of existing property.

Paul Finch’s Nightmare – Quinlan Terry’s idea for the Olympic Park

Very funny idea from Building Design. After Paul Finch’s peice in the AJ that he was thankful none at the Traditional Architecture Group designed anything at the Olympic Park BD asked Quinlan Terry partners to do a sketch.

This is drawn by Francis Terry, a partner at the firm founded by his father. You can imagine athletes being transported to the stadium by Trireme up the river Lea of by Chariot from the Olympic village. Francis Terry partaking inthe Joke said that traditional architecture would ‘look ridiculous’ at the Olympic Park.