Apple’s Edifice Complex



Years ago I read a column about how you could always tell when a high growth company was going to stall out and stagnate: they spend lots of money and most importantly, time and energy, building themselves a very fancy new corporate headquarters. As I recall, the example used was Borland International, once a leader in low cost programming languages, that fell victim to the edifice complex.

Well for those of you, myself included, wondering why a company with over $240 billion in cash and thousands of engineers can’t seem to do much exciting since the death of Steve Jobs, take a look at the ultimate edifice complex, courtesy of that self-same CEO: Channeling Steve Jobs, Apple seeks design perfection at new ‘spaceship’ campus by Julia Love at

An estimated $5 billion and several years has gone into this not yet finished new corporate headquarters. But that’s hardly the issue, that’s only a couple of percent of Apple’s cash hoard. No, the issue is that design guru Jonny Ive and others on the senior management team have supposedly devoted endless hours to micro-managing every detail of the design and construction.

Time and effort that could have and should have gone into creating something more impactful than the Apple Watch, Apple Music, and the Touch Bar.

Worse yet the building’s design seems out of touch with today’s office design principles:

For all the time and money sunk into the project, some in the architecture community question whether Apple has focused on the right ends. The campus is something of an exception to the trend of radically open offices aimed at fostering collaboration, said Louise Mozingo, a professor and chair of the Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning at U.C. Berkeley. Its central office building – a massive ring of glass frequently likened to a spaceship – could be a challenge just to navigate, she noted.

“It’s not about maximizing the productivity of the office space, it’s about creating a symbolic center for this global company,” she said. “They are creating an icon.”

Yes, “creating an icon” another term for the edifice complex.

Time will tell if Steve Jobs last product proves to be a hit like the iPhone or a miss, like the NeXT Computer – another over engineered, over-priced, cash and time consuming (11 years!) – product.


Author: Mentorphile

Mentor, coach, and advisor to entrepreneurs, small businesses, and non-profit organizations. General manager with significant experience in both for-profit and non-profit organizations. Focus on media and information. On founding team of four venture-backed companies. Currently Chairman of Popsleuth, Inc., maker of the Endorfyn app for keeping fans updated on new stuff from their favorite artists.

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