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Apple's 'spaceship' campus architect dishes details

With a buried car park, 7,000 trees, and jogging and bicycle trails, the iPhone maker's new headquarters will take on Steve Jobs' vision to be more like a town park than an office park.

Apple plans to turn a "sea of asphalt" into a green space. Apple

Stanford University's campus has a large central quad full of plants, flowers, trees, and pedestrian walkways -- this was Apple's late co-founder Steve Jobs' vision for the design of the company's upcoming futuristic spaceship-like campus.

Architecture firm Foster + Partners is heading the project -- which is slated to be done in 2016 -- and the firm's founder Norman Foster recently spoke to Architectural Record about the thinking behind the new headquarters.

Jobs laid out plans for the campus in 2011. The facility is expected to have four stories and span a whopping 2.8 million square feet. Apple said in 2011 that it hopes to have 12,000 people on the campus -- up from about 2,800 in its current headquarters.

Before Apple took over the land, Hewlett-Packard had offices there. According to Foster, "the Apple building will occupy the site much more tightly than what was there." This means there will be far more open space for plants and trees. In fact, Apple has said that the headquarters will be 80 percent landscape with more than 7,000 trees.

"The reference point for Steve [Jobs] was always the large space on the Stanford campus -- the Main Quad -- which Steve knew intimately," Foster said. "Also, he would reminisce about the time when he was young, and California was still the fruit bowl of the United States. It was still orchards."

The headquarters was first referred as a "spaceship" by Jobs himself, who said that it'll look "a bit like a spaceship landed." The round building is meant to emulate a town square with buildings encircling a park. Foster said that his firm did a series of planning studies for creating such a structure.

"These studies finally morphed into a circular building that would enclose the private space in the middle -- essentially a park that would replicate the original California landscape, and parts of it would also recapture the orchards of the past," he said. "The car would visually be banished, and tarmac would be replaced by greenery, and car parks by jogging and bicycle trails."

This isn't to say there won't be cars at Apple's new campus -- they'll just be hidden from view in a buried car park. That way, "you won't look out of your window and see row after row of parked cars," Foster said.