The new Steve Jobs Theatre at Apple Park is the result of eight years of close collaboration between Foster + Partners and Apple. Positioned atop a small hill, some way into the park, the Theater is reached via a gentle, winding walk through verdant parkland. This offers an opportunity to slow down before you begin a carefully choreographed sequence of architectural experiences.
To create the jewel, a lens-shaped roof rests gently on a transparent 22-foot-tall and 135-foot- diameter glass cylinder. While appearing to float effortlessly, it is in fact the largest carbon-fiber roof in the world, weighing 80.7 tons. Pushing the limits of materiality even further, just four layers of glass form the structural support. The glass is all that holds up the roof – there is not a single column. It is the largest all-glass-supported structure in the world.
The thin roof disc comprises 44 identical radial panels, which were assembled on-site and carefully craned into position onto the completed glass cylinder in a single lift. All its services, such as electric conduits and sprinkler pipes, are invisibly integrated within the thin silicone joints between the curved glass panels.
The purity of the lobby finds resonance in the ambitious custom glass elevator. In a world-first, it uses helical guide rails to rotate the car 171 degrees between levels.Two sculpted-stone stairways provide a slower descent into the belly of the Theater. The stairways culminate in a tight, compressed space, surrounded by three stone walls and a stainless-steel drum made of sliding panels.
The 1,000-seater auditorium brings people together to share in a collective experience. Great care was given to the geometry and seating arrangement to ensure the closest relationship between presenter and audience. It can comfortably host small internal gatherings as well as large events. After an event, the rear wall re-opens, returning guests to the third major space in the sequence. The seemingly permanent stainless-steel drum disappears to reveal a flexible sun-lit gathering space.
all images courtesy of Foster + Partners