Is Apple’s New HQ Really a View of the Future? Or Just a Blast from Our Suburban Past?

General Motors' PR Vision of the Corporate Park via Collector's Weekly

General Motors’ PR Vision of the Corporate Park via Collector’s Weekly

The idea behind the flying-saucer design of Apple’s new headquarters is to generate plenty of cross-traffic and promote serendipitous encounters. That may be the case, but according to an article by Hunter Oatman-Stanford in Collector’s Weekly the design really isn’t terribly new.

Connecticut General’s new corporate estate included snack bars, ping-pong tables, shuffleboards, bowling alleys, tennis courts, horseshoe pits, a barbershop, beauty parlor, game room, media library, meditation room, and gas station, as well as offsite services like dry-cleaning, shoe repair, flowers, and grocery delivery—more than half a century before Google and Facebook added such benefits.

When tech giants like Apple, Google and IBM locate their headquarters in sprawling suburban business parks they put pressure on workers to commute farther, spend more of their day on-site, and interact with a less diverse group of people than if the companies were based in the city, according to Oatman-Stanford.

Silicon Valley’s tech industry puts enormous strain on the housing markets in the suburbs where the companies are located and inflated the cost of housing in remote communities. Oatman-Stanford hints that there’s an element of classism if not outright racism behind the corporate HQ’s flight from the city.

Contrast today’s corporate park with Samuel Colt’s vision for Coltsville, a central factory connected to a cluster of affordable high quality homes, a family sporting complex, a church, a museum, schools, even a sustainable grove of willow trees to provide renewable resources. It seems like the 19th century city plan is the one that looks futuristic.

[via @PlacesJournal]