Steve Jobs as Land-Use Advocate

The last public appearance that the Apple chairman and visionary made was to present plans for his company's new headquarters to the Cupertino City Council just four months ago

Steve Jobs' last public appearance was as a land-use advocate, presenting plans for Apple's circular new headquarters to the Cupertino City Council just four months ago tomorrow.

"Pretty cool" and "like a spaceship has landed" made the news last June, because Jobs was talking like pundits expected, while framing the rollout of something special, fresh and new.

Notwithstanding Jobs' emphasis on heavy landscaping and subsurface parking, Philip Langdon has criticized the proposal in urbanist circles for its fenced, office park setting of glass and the auto-centric suburbia of old.

Familiar architectural critics have also cross-examined the premise of London's Foster+Partners' design. The Los Angeles Times' Christopher Hawthorne termed it nothing short of a "retrograde cocoon," while Paul Goldberger in The New Yorker last month questioned whether the building's enormity would leave Jobs' last contribution to his company as the least meaningful of his career.

I'm suspending judgment on the building for now, to focus on style and Jobs' relentless pursuit of dreams. Last June 7, the way he presented and argued, with retiring charm, lit up the room.

Three years of law school does not teach that kind of persuasion. Such artful persistence was Jobs' magical power, a quality which we should always remember.


This article also appears on My Urbanist.

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Charles R. Wolfe is an attorney in Seattle, where he focuses on land use and environmental law and permitting, including the use of innovative land use regulatory tools and sustainable development techniques.

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