At one point, Behling recalls, Jobs discussed the walls he had in mind for the offices: “He knew exactly what timber he wanted, but not just ‘I like oak’ or ‘I like maple.’ He knew it had to be quarter-cut. It had to be cut in the winter, ideally in January, to have the least amount of sap and sugar content. We were all sitting there, architects with gray hair, going, ‘Holy shit!’
Urbanistically questionable, but it is probably the pinnacle of object in a landscape kind of architecture. It may be hubris, but if all hubris looked this good...
Apple had the resources to build whatever it wanted. The local council was hesitant to question its plans, knowing that it was one of the biggest employers and taxpayers. Lots of major corporations have offices in urban-friendly buildings. It's hard not to blame Apple for its building, which seems an anachronism in spite of its impressive design features.
Sure, but what would constitute an "urban" building in an non-urban setting? Or what could Apple have done differently shy of building a rapid transit or bike lane network in Cupertino?
It could have been a mixed-use complex with housing that would have been appealling to employees, retail space and entrances along the main streets, and a well-programmed public space. They could have built a transit centre. Or, they could have just found a skyscraper in San Francisco or New York for their headquarters.
I certainly don't debate that those are all key elements in building a successful, urban, mixed-use community, but what I'm skeptical of is whether plopping those elements down in a consummately suburban community completely devoid of all the other key elements would actually amount to what one would hope for.
To take your point, though, yeah, I'd definitely love to have seen a bunch of the Valley giants band together to completely re-imagine (er, disrupt) a large swath of the Valley rather than partake in this starchitect dick-swinging exercise. And it seems as though Apple would've been a great first-mover in such an endeavour.
At a more basic level, I see Apple as a Jetsonesque or Tomorrowland company - anachronism or not, the corporate identity is fundamentally Modern with a capital M. It's radiant future built by Gorilla Glass and machined aluminum. To say that they should build mixed use and messy is basically turning their back against that ethos - and daresay, inauthentic.