Inspired by the many stories I have read after Steve Jobs died yesterday, and of course by Steve Jobs himself.
I had the opportunity to meet Steve Jobs and we talked architectural design for a good 45 minutes across the street from what now is the Walnut Creek Apple store. I was on the City of Walnut Creek Design Review Commission and Apple’s proposal was not going smoothly through the system. Palo Alto had recently declined a similar building instead forcing Apple to retrofit an existing structure and Apple really wanted their design approved in Walnut Creek. Steve met with us two at a time at project site, wanting to sell us on the concept without having to personally appear at a public meeting.
The discussions involved how high the proposed Apple store would be and how it would connect in relation to the adjacent buildings. There were workers on the roof raising and lowering a tarp for us to better judge height. During this discussion, Steve spouted off several dimensions of the project, each time his architect wanted us to wait while she conformed the numbers worried that her client would say something incorrect, each time Steve’s numbers were right. I am sure that Steve studied the plans on his drive that morning, but it was obvious that he knew his building inside out better than the people who drew the plans. The conversation then turned to overall architectural and urban design and how a buildings facade should not be just wallpaper and agreement was reached having some exterior materials wrap into the inside of the building.
While Steve may have considered this meeting a huge inconvenience, his communication was far better than anyone else about what he wanted and he actually understood our concerns, using it all to easily come up with a better design. Steve’s caring and passion about his products and yes architectural design are legend, and there is a reason, he cared and spent the time to do it right. I have had endless architectural design conversations with people from all viewpoints and levels of experience but this one was surely different and will stay in my memory.