Apple's brand-new 'Spaceship' campus (properly named Apple Park) officially openned late last year and I've been remiss in making a trip to see the circular monolith. Unfortunately and expectedly the entire complex is securely walled-off so plebeians like me with no inside connection and not a technology journalist are relegated to admiration from a distance.
Given the situation as it is, Apple built a Visitor Center on the lot adjacent to the main Apple Park complex so people making the pilgrimage will actually have something to see/do (or a public bathroom to use). Essentially an Apple Store, half of the architecturally stunning building is dedicated to showing off the majesty of the new campus across the street.
The center has got plenty of parking above and below ground so everyone can drive their own car and just forget about carpooling.
Out of the parking lot the Visitor Center's courtyard greets you with its perfectly aligned trees and benches made of stone. Being less than a year old the greenery have yet the appropriate amount of time to mature so currently it's a bit sparse and the trees aren't doing much to provide shade.
Like the Apple Park campus, the Visitor Center's outer wall is constructed entirely of huge glass sheets, with its roof-deck giving the illusion of being impossibly suspended above. There's lots of architectural cantilever trickery going on as the glass panels bear no load other than holding itself up. It's quite magnificent and gives the inner space a tremendous amount of natural light.
In addition to normal entrance doors, a few giant panes of glass on either horizontal side can swivel open to let in air and give the space a hybrid indoor-outdoor ambiance.
On one end of the first floor Apple have set up an interactive area featuring an enormous scale-model of Apple Park. Armed with dedicated iPads passed out by attendants, visitors can take an augmented-reality tour of the 'Spaceship' and adjacent buildings. Lacking the ability to tour the actual Apple Park itself, this AR experience is a convincing fascmile.
As I walked away from the interactive space I was greeted with this beauty of a staircase. it looks spectacularly suspended and free-standing, and I love the way it appears as if it's hewn together from carved pieces of solid rock. Notice the intricate grab-rail that's directly inset into the railing.
The middle portion of the Visitor Center resembles a typical Apple Store in its latest guise, dominated by the giant display mini-theatre setup in the center. Indeed guests are able to purchase the entire slate of Apple products, and also memorabilia bespoke to the Apple Park like mugs and t-shirts. One thing it hasn't got is a Genius Bar, so if you've got problems with your Apple device don't come here for a fix.
Ascending the artful stairs will bring you to the upper balcony that in theory should afford a good view of the 'Spaceship' campus. Unfortunately the structure is inexplicably blocked by a few tall trees. I'm not entirely sure why Apple made the effort to construct a viewing deck but then planted trees that obstruct the sightline. It was quite disappointing.
Back down to level ground on the other side of the building is the cafe, offering bite-size treats and the standard fare of coffee products. The coffee machines are obviously brand-new and looks super premium. iPads are used as menus, and if you're paying via any method other than Apple Pay you're simply embarrassing yourself.
Unlike the tech products sold in the room adjacent the cafe prices are surprisingly reasonable. I bought a shot of expresso for $3.
After enjoying the shot of caffeine, I decided to take a short walk circumnavigating the 'Spaceship'. To repeat the complex is completely walled-off and you can't see much inwards due to the sheer amount of greenery planted all around. However Apple did construct a lovely walkway that circles round the outer block, which on a fine day makes good opportunity for a stroll.
Overall, the inspiring architecture and the cup of coffee makes the Visitor Center at Apple Park a worthwhile trip at least once.