On June 7, 2011, a local businessman addressed a meeting of the Cupertino City Council. He had not been on the agenda, but his presence wasn't a total surprise. Earlier in the year the man had expressed his intention to attend a meeting in order to propose a new series of buildings along the city's northern border, but he hadn't felt up to it at the time. He was, as all of them knew, in dire health.
Before the start of the meeting, Kris Wang, a Cupertino councilmember, looked out the window at the back of the room and saw him walking toward the building. He moved with obvious difficulty, wearing the same outfit he had been seen in the day before when he'd introduced new products to the world—which is to say, the same outfit that anyone had ever seen him wear. When it was his turn to address the council, he walked to the podium. He began to speak, tentative at first before clicking into the conversational yet hypnotically compelling tone he used in keynotes.
His company, he said, had "grown like a weed." His workforce had increased significantly over a decade, coming to fill more than 100 buildings as workers created one blockbuster product after another. To consolidate his employees, he wanted to create a new campus, a verdant landscape where the border between nature and building would be blurred. Unlike other corporate campuses, which he found "pretty boring," this would feature as its centerpiece a master structure, shaped like a circle, that would hold 12,000 employees. "It's a pretty amazing building," he told them. "It's a little like a spaceship landed."
When Wang asked what benefit would come to Cupertino from this massive enterprise, the speaker had a slight edge to his voice as he explained, as if to a child, that it would enable the company to stay in the California township. Otherwise, it could sell off its current properties and take its people with it, maybe to someplace nearby, like Mountain View. That unpleasantness out of the way, the speaker was able to return to the subject of what he would create.
"I think we do have a shot," he told the council, "of building the best office building in the world." What he didn't tell them—during what none of them could have known would be his last public appearance—is that he was not just planning a new campus for the company he cofounded, built, left, returned to, and ultimately saved from extinction. Through this new headquarters, Steve Jobs was planning the future of Apple itself—a future beyond him and, ultimately, beyond any of us.