Saturday, June 11, 2011

Find: Apple’s “Spaceship” Campus echoes 60 year old NC State design. Hopefully this time it will be built!

Apple’s “Spaceship” Campus Proposal Looks Familiar

Top: Rendering of Apple's new headquarters in Cupertino, CA. Bottom: Model of Columbus Circle Shopping Center in NYC by former NCSU architecture professor Matthew Nowicki. Bottom image courtesy of and copyright NCSU SCRC.

The announcement of Apple’s new campus in Cupertino, California created a bit of buzz amongst the company’s fans as well as architecture enthusiasts. The design has been likened by many to a spaceship. It will feature several technological innovations as well as provide its own power from an on-site natural gas plant.

While many were focusing on how new and different this building is, I couldn’t help but think how similar it is to the Columbus Circle Shopping Center Proposal (unbuilt), drawn up more than 60 years ago by the former head of NCSU’s architecture program, Matthew Nowicki.

Top partial view of Dorton Arena in Raleigh, which also slightly resembles a spaceship. Designed by Matthew Nowicki

The Designer of the Original “Spaceship”

Matthew Nowicki put Raleigh on the architectural map with the construction of Dorton Arena in 1952, the first building with a roof supported by cables. In 1957, the American Institute of Architects declared it one of the 10 20th-century buildings most expected to influence the future of American architecture.

He was a rising star in the international architecture arena, pushing the limits of existing construction methods as well as designing an entire new city from the ground up. His talent was summed up in this way by the architecture critic for the New Yorker:

Nowicki’s dictum that the client makes an important contribution to the building and deserves part of the credit stemmed from his profound respect of ordinary men and their ways [...] Even in the conservative South, long hypnotized by the classic-genteel position, his daring plans for the arena and grandstand for the State Fair buildings in Raleigh met with enthusiastic response from people who, although architecturally unsophisticated, could neverthele...

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