Miscellaneous and Useless Information

Architecture and land use

Just one day after his keynote at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference, Steve Jobs made an appearance last night at the Cupertino City Council to present the company’s plans for a new campus in Cupertino, on the old Hewlett-Packard site. It essentially consists of one giant building shaped like a doughnut that will hold 12,000 people. It will be surrounded by open space, and the parking will be mostly underground.

While the plans certainly make a statement, I’m more an urbanist and not usually fond of buildings surrounded by lots of parking lots or open space, since they don’t tend to be very energetic spaces. So I’m actually lukewarm on what I’ve seen so far. I’m also left with a lot of questions:

  • How accessible will the open space be to the public?
  • In the slides that Jobs presented, Pruneridge Avenue disappears. Where does it go? Is it eliminated? Does it go underground? Does it become a private street, serving only the underground parking garage?
  • What are the plans for the existing redwood grove and the historic Glendenning Barn?

I’m sure that the final result will be pretty close to what was presented — I can’t imagine Cupertino giving Apple a really hard time. And even though it would still be a corporate office park instead of a more urban neighborhood, it would be a really nice office park, better than what is there now. By the way, I grew up in Cupertino and I still live nearby, so I know the area very well.

And I echo Mayor Gilbert Wong’s desire to open an Apple Store in Cupertino. Too bad the city’s Vallco Mall is such a basket case.

Almost three years ago, I blogged about Microsoft’s plans for a new West Campus. They finished last year, and I was impressed when I visited it a couple of weeks ago. The Commons has a nice urban contemporary vibe to it, and it feels energetic. Other companies should definitely take note.

I noticed one amusing thing about the West Campus: instead of going with their traditional building numbers, Microsoft decided to letter the new buildings. And then they decided to re-letter existing nearby numbered buildings, to the amusement of some Microsofties.

A few months ago, the Wall Street Journal ran a feature article on Lee Myung-Bak, the then-presidential candidate (and now president) of South Korea. As an aside, the article said that as mayor of Seoul, Lee had ordered an elevated highway torn down to unearth a buried stream and turn it into a park. Of course, I couldn’t let that pass without doing more background reading.

The stream that was restored is called Cheonggyecheon, and the success of its restoration helped launch Lee’s presidential candidacy. Seoul’s Cheonggyecheon web site has a link to an interesting Discovery Channel Asia documentary (411 MB Windows Media video file, 47 mins), which covers engineering, environmental and archaeological aspects of the project. (Yes, of course, I’ve already watched it!)

While reading up on Cheonggyecheon, I remembered that Taipei had a similar situation. After more research, I found out that Xinsheng Road follows the path of an old canal, and that when he was mayor of Taipei, Ma Ying-jeou also proposed daylighting the canal (although not the part that’s under the elevated Xinsheng Expressway). And now Ma is running for president of Taiwan! In east Asia, tearing down roads is becoming the clear path to launching your presidential career.

Last month, Danyel blogged about Microsoft Research’s moving into a new building, Building 99, and linked to several newspaper articles about Microsoft’s expansion in general. I’m somewhat familiar with the Microsoft campus, having interned there in 1995 and visited a few times since, so I was curious to find out even more.

On Microsoft’s web site, I found a couple of maps showing its Campus Development Plan, one from February 2006 (PDF), and another from November 2007 (JPEG). There are a couple of minor differences, which is to be expected as a master plan is implemented. One of them shows how the footprints of Buildings 94–98 have gotten more funky:

Microsoft West Campus plan - Feb 2006

Microsoft West Campus plan - Nov 2007

But more interesting is a change in the original campus. Currently, there is empty space next to Buildings 5 and 6. The 2006 map shows the space occupied by a new Building 7, where the 2007 map has it renumbered to Building 37:

Microsoft Building 7 - 2006

Microsoft Building 7 - 2007

7 makes more sense than 37 — why the change?

There has never been a Building 7 at Microsoft. The numbers jumped from 6 to 8. Company pranks soon began referring to the mythical Building 7, such as sending new interns there for an urgent meeting, or employees announcing they were heading over to Building 7 when they were heading out for lunch.

So not surprisingly, there was an outcry in the company when facilities announced a new Building 7 in the expansion plan. Luckily, facilities has a sense of humor and decided to renumber the building. (I guess there wasn’t a Building 37 either…)

From the Cupertino Courier:

Higher prices make it harder to buy a home in Cupertino

A concern frequently expressed by some city council members and planning commissioners is that Cupertino homes are become so expensive many families cannot afford to move here….

“In the first six months of the year, it was a seller’s market. There was a scarcity of homes,” [said John Miner, sales manager for Van Vleck Realty]. “Now there are not so many buyers. We’re still seeing a good market, but now what it was six months ago….”

[Darlene Phelps of Raintree Realtors] maintains Cupertino is a desirable place to live because of its access to freeways and a “good” school district….

I forgot to mention the date: January 1, 1975. The article states that the average price of a house in Cupertino was $39,170 in January 1974, and $46,660 the following June. In 2007 dollars, that’s about $165,200 and $196,800, respectively. Fast forward to last month: the median price in Cupertino was $1,025,000.

Recently I scored great deals on a few books. At Moe’s Books in Berkeley I bought:

And then at Compass Books (owned by Books Inc.) in San Francisco Airport, I bought:

Total amount:  $73.83 $22.98. Saved over $50. Sweeeeet.

Mickey Mouse plush toyLast week I was in Orlando for a customer conference, Lotusphere. For 3½ days straight I manned a demo station in the Innovation Lab on one of my research projects, which was worthwhile but tiring. But there was a payoff: the conference party was at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and Jeff and I spent Thursday afternoon at the Magic Kingdom. Here’s a tip: go to Disney World in January — no one’s there. It helps if it rained that morning. In less than 4 hours, Jeff and I were able to circle around the park and go on 6 rides, and then circle around again and go on 5 more. When it came to dollars per ride, we definitely got  our money’s worth.

Before the conference, I went to visit my old Connecticut neighbors, who I hadn’t seen since I moved to California almost 20 years ago, and drove through the town of Celebration, a new urbanist town planned by Disney. It looked very pleasant. Almost too pleasant…

My photos from the trip are in two sets: Lotusphere 2007 and Walt Disney World and Celebration.

Last week San Jose hosted a huge digital art conference and exhibition called ZeroOne, held in association with the International Symposium of Electronic Art. I went on Tuesday with Francis and Simona to check out an art piece created by their friends called Acclair, a provocative piece on the intersection of profiling, security, and advertising. We also got to see massive images get projected onto San Jose City Hall the result was quite spectacular. I also wanted to see the Survival Research Labs show on Friday, but it was long sold out.

This is the first time I’ve ever seen people from San Francisco come to San Jose to see art. I hope it’s not the last.

As New York experiences a building boom, old signs painted on the sides of buildings are becoming even more rare.

I don’t think many readers of this blog live in Cupertino, but Measures A, B, and C would have region-wide impact. These measures would set limits on building density, height, and setback from the street; only part of Vallco would be exempt. Any other exemptions would need a citywide vote, paid by the developer. Proponents want to preserve Cupertino’s suburban character, but these measures are way too extreme. Passing them would just continue ugly sprawl.

For example, the height restriction (36 feet maximum) means that the new library and Apple’s corporate headquarters would be in violation. The Senior Center and the new Peet’s Coffee/Panera Bread building would violate the setback restriction (35 feet minimum). These are not urban skyscrapers by any means. It’s not too often you find a Chamber of Commerce and the Sierra Club on the same side of an issue. They are both against Measures A, B, and C, as are virtually every elected official in Cupertino. I’m with them.

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