Originally published in CLOG : APPLE, 2012.
Apple [Computer] is stasis, symmetry, transcendence, design as object. It idealizes smooth space and central authority. It does not break.
A universal plane with a single button implies an omnipotence with no need for such banalities as user input. Perfectly smooth graphic transitions imply that everything in the device is already on the screen; the user is just looking at this or that at a given time. Now their headquarters are set to be reduced, architecturally, to one perfect circle.
It does not matter that Apple has sacrificed what would normally be considered user-friendliness [or the appearance thereof] in pursuit of this ideology. The iPhone, for example, is not particularly comfortable to use. Its ultra-shiny surface makes it eminently droppable. Most people house it in an aftermarket case – as much for grip and comfort as for protection. Apple’s pretensions to universality and mute perfection preclude the acknowledgement that their devices are made to be used by people with characteristics, deferring to third parties to mediate between their dogmatic absolutism and the specificities of the real world.
Apple’s assumption of this radical position forces its competitors into oppositional stances. The initial promotion of Droid smartphones used the slogan “DROID DOES” – not only to list performative advantages of Droid over Apple, but to counter Apple’s identity-based branding. Apple never needed to explain what their product does, because everyone can imagine the possibilities of a single screen that does everything. They needed only to give our vague notions of this ur-device an identity; a name, and a form simple enough that we could say to ourselves “Of course it looks like that. Just as I’d imagined.” You might buy Droid because of what it does, but you buy Apple because of what it is.
The anti-Apple becomes dynamism, asymmetry, immanence, design as process. It accepts striated space and celebrates decentralization. You can fix it.
Such anti-Apples emerge in every sector in which Apple operates. What, then, is the antithesis of Foster’s new Apple headquarters? Perhaps, like the ThinkPad, it already exists and merely waits to assume its role. Or, like the Android platform, could it be several entities grouped and defined by what they are not? Perhaps its preference for action over identity means that the antithesis of Apple’s building doesn’t have to be a building at all.
“Anti-Apples” must include the products that mediate between Apple’s incomplete “perfection” and the needs of the real world. The space between product as designed and product as used is fertile – countless aftermarket cases and app interfaces have filled this space, acting as pragmatic foils to the Apple ideology. If Foster’s building is to represent this side of Apple’s ideology, perhaps it will accept – or even revel in – the incompleteness of its absolutist provision and the ground it creates for anti-Apples to mediate between it and reality. Its antithesis may, after all, be found in the additions and modifications that its occupants make to it.