Up ahead in the distance, I saw a shimmering light.
Who would have guessed that the Eagles would prove our most reliable prophets?
Nikil Saval, author of Cubed: A Secret History of the Workplace, traces the planned new headquarters of Google and Apple — Googledome (above) and Mothership Apple (below) — to their origins in what’s been called Hippie Modernism. The aggressive futurism of the two campuses “is in fact rooted in the past,” Saval writes. “It comes, transfigured, from the wrecked dreams of communal living, of back-to-the-land utopias, of expanding plastic spheres and geodesic domes that populated the landscape of Northern California around the time (and around the same place) that the first semiconductors were being perfected.” It’s Bucky Fuller all over again.
The central building of Googledome is wrapped in “a sinuous glass membrane, a protective bubble or amniotic sac,” Saval notes. “In aerial renderings it looks like larvae, incubating a new and possibly terrifying future.” It’s always the same: The more utopian an artistic portrayal of the future, the creepier it seems.
The feeling has something to do, I think, with the absence of angles — all those soft and welcoming curves, undulating like the coils of a snake. There’s also the Panopticon effect. The transparent enclosures of both Googledome and Mothership Apple can be read as monuments to a surveillance culture. You’re being watched, they whisper, but you need not fret — the watcher is benign, generous, loving.
“Relax,” said the night man. “We are programmed to receive.”