Revolutionary glass pavilion structure at Apple’s headquarters, comprising a glass drum 41m in diameter elegantly supporting a carbon fibre roof.

2018 IStructE Award for Structural Artistry
2018 SentryGlas Innovation Award for Engineering

Apple is renowned as a pioneer of technology, so it’s fitting that the landmark venue for Apple’s product launches should be designed using pioneering structural technology. The entry pavilion to the Steve Jobs Theater includes several features that have never been seen before on a structure of this scale.

Over the last 14 years, Eckersley O’Callaghan’s relationship with Apple has resulted in a rapid evolution in structure and structural glass technology; the Steve Jobs Theater represents a culmination of the advances born from this close relationship.

With a diameter of 60m, the carbon fibre roof is the largest of its kind, comprised of 44 radial panels, which were assembled on site before being raised into position in one lift. This 80-tonne roof is supported, without any additional framing, by a 7m high, 41m diameter cylinder of glass panels, each consisting of four layers of 12mm thick plies. It is the largest structure in the world solely supported by glass.

The structural systems were designed so that the conduits, sprinkler pipes, data, audio and security systems needed in the roof could be accommodated in the 30mm joints between the glass panels.

As Cupertino is in a highly seismic zone, the structural criteria are particularly challenging given the properties of glass – its inherent brittleness requires detailed analysis to fully justify safe design. We have employed several strategies to protect against seismic activity. The curved glass panels are fixed at their base with structural silicone into a steel channel that transfers the energy of an earthquake. Steel plates are engineered to deform before the glass breaks, safeguarding the integrity and robustness of the overall structure.

Working closely with Foster + Partners, we also engineered the design of a glass lift, which stands 12.8m high. The lift car corkscrews on helical guides to facilitate an exit point 171 degrees rotation from entry. It is the tallest free-standing glass elevator in the world, and the first to rotate on helical guides.

California, USA


Foster + Partners