The Hole Picture
What the Eiffel Tower and a well-designed computer have in common.
When two engineers, Maurice Koechlin and Émile Nouguier, envisioned a statement-making structure for the 1889 World’s Fair, they wanted to create something that would truly be on the level of another landmark moment in French history: the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution. Taking inspiration from New York’s Latting Observatory, arguably the city’s first skyscraper, Koechlin sketched up an idea for what he described as “a great pylon, consisting of four lattice girders standing apart at the base and coming together at the top, joined together by metal trusses at regular intervals.”
Civil engineer Alexandre Gustave Eiffel wasn’t instantly smitten with the concept, but when Stephen Sauvestre, head of Eiffel’s architectural department, added decorative arches, a glass pavilion, and other aesthetic embellishments, Eiffel was 100% in on the idea, and began to seek out how to make the tower a reality.
Key to the design of the Eiffel Tower’s structure is the intricate latticework on the base, consisting of criss-crossed strips of metal, not only offering a unique aesthetic but a pragmatic purpose. This same ideal marriage of striking visuals with no-nonsense function informs the design of the Mac Pro.
Originally debuted in 2006, the Mac Pro was intended as the professional workhorse of Apple’s computers. Whereas many of its other computers were self-contained systems that eschewed the oft-messy tower/monitor/peripherals setup of the PC scene, this was Apple’s earnest attempt at making a machine meant for pure performance.
But in true Apple fashion, form somehow got involved along the way. The “cheese grater” type design is something loosely inspired by Jony Ive’s Power Mac G4 Cube from 2000, a plastic-encased computer that looks more like a Nintendo GameCube if it had sex with a toaster.
The ventilation grille up top allowed the machine to cool passively, and that led to the implementation of a perforated metal on the early Mac Pro towers, giving them their distinctive look.
According to Wired UK, the perforations in the latest Mac Pro model take inspiration from the natural world, although you’d probably need a microscope to see it.
“The holes themselves are a negative-space representation of a common atomic arrangement in metallic crystals,” writes Jeremy White. “The resulting structure is a lightweight lattice pattern that maximises airflow without sacrificing strength.”
Further, White draws similarities between the 2019 lattice design, the OG 2006 version, and the back of the 2000 Power Mac G4 Cube, showing just how detail-oriented the references can be when it comes to Jony Ive and his team. This becomes even more evident when reading a 2015 New Yorker profile on Ive and the design team, where one member, Bart André, sounds like he has the most specific job in the world.
His daily routine is described as such: “He tends to arrive at five or six in the morning, and often then designs geometrically complex objects that he asks the machinists to mill.”
One of his most useful tools is said to be a plastic disc André used as a coaster, on it were several types of holes that Ive referenced for everything from speaker hole shapes to perforations, and beyond. Demonstrating the degree to which the innovative designer truly thinks about every product.
“We put the product ahead of anything else,” Ive says to the New Yorker. “Let’s say we’re talking about something that I’ve done that’s ugly and ill-proportioned—because, believe you me, I can pull some beauties out of the old hat.
To see the Mac Pro-inspired HIDDEN benches, visit the HIDDEN pop-up from May 6-8 at 45 Ludlow Street. It is open from 12-5.