Jobs Pushed the Envelope in Glass Design
October 7, 2011

By Sahely Mukerji, smukerji@glass.com

Steve Jobs was a lover of glass, as evidenced by Apple's retail stores and planned headquarters.

People will remember Apple co-founder and former chief executive officer, Steve Jobs, 56, as a visionary and creative genius, who built one of the most successful companies in the world from his garage. However, Jobs was a glass visionary and a lover of glass as well. Among his 317 Apple patents is the glass staircase at Apple's New York City store.

When Jobs created the original Apple store, he worked with a number of glass companies to create the glass staircase at the NYC store. He also designed the iconic glass cube for all Apple stores. Most recently, he proposed the circular curved glass design for the new Apple headquarters being built in Cupertino, Calif.

"It's a circle, so it's curved all the way around, and if you've built something, you know it's not the cheapest way to build something," Jobs said to the Cupertino City Council when making his presentation on June 7. "There's not a straight piece of glass on this building, and we've used our experience making retail buildings, and we know how to make the biggest pieces of glass in the world, for architectural use - and we want to make the glass specifically for this building here. We can make it curved all the way around the building. It's pretty cool."

Jobs pushed the "glass envelope" like he pushed the envelopes of everything he got involved with, says Lyle Hill, managing director of Keytech North America. "I had the opportunity of dealing with a few of his operations people and the thing that always impressed me the most was their insistence on quality, in particular their pursuit of perfection. As we in the industry know all too well, perfection is a lofty goal."

W&W LLC in Nanuet, N.Y., worked with Jobs on the very first Apple store.

"We have always considered ourselves here at W&W to be 'glass guys,' always trying to provide leading edge design in glazing products for our customers," says Jeff Haber, managing partner at W&W Glass. "I assume it was for this reason that we were asked and had the opportunity to review and comment on the very first Apple design for all glass skylight and staircase for a new retail concept. The designs envisioned a method of metal inserts into large multiply laminates to create structural beams." At the time it had not been done commercially on any scale, Haber said, and the company decided to pass on the opportunity. "Little did we know what the future would hold," he added. "Who could have imagined that Steve Jobs, a computer geek would help to create some of the most innovative and iconic glass structures of our time? He truly understood what we all wanted from both a product and retail experience before we did. He had the power, influence and money to bring his dreams to reality and now we all have his work to marvel at. As glass guys we think the Apple stores are modern glass marvels that raise the level of play and give us all something to aspire to."

Seele GmbH & Co., headquartered in Germany, fabricated, installed and conducted safety tests on the glass staircase. "We at Seele will always be grateful to Steve jobs for giving us the opportunity to show the world the latest developments in glass design and engineering," says Attila Arian, president of Seele Inc., New York City. "He has been a great inspiration to us to continuously push the limits. The new Apple cube with just 15 pieces of jumbo sized glass or the Apple store on the Upper Westside in New York are prime examples for cutting-edge technology in glass design and fabrication. We all learned from Steve Jobs that know-how and innovation will have to be paired with courage and determination to create success."

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