Manhattan is my favourite place on earth. There's something about walking down those streets and avenues, through the concrete jungle, that makes me feel at home. And, when you combine my favourite place, my favourite architect and my favourite company, you get the 5th Avenue Apple Store.
I have been fortunate enough to visit New York on a few occasions. I could quite easily write this whole blog post on Manhattan and why I think it's so great. But, I'll keep it brief so we can get back to the task in hand; the 5th Avenue Apple Store. To me, the borough of Manhattan is extremely well designed. The grid layout of the streets and avenues mean that you know exactly where you are in the city, and exactly how to get to the next place. In addition to the layout of Manhattan, I absolutely adore the architecture. You find yourself walking down the street with your neck back and staring at the sky; surrounded by incredible design and craftsmanship. The combination of old and new buildings gives Manhattan a character of its own, unmatched by any other place on earth. And when you want a break from the loud, bustling city, you come to Central Park. Central Park is a place of complete calm; relinquished from chaos. Standing in the middle of the park, you forget you're even in one of the most built-up cities in the world. Dogs run past off the lead, birds fly above your head and, even looking up, you're faced with a clear, unobstructed sky.
I am extremely fond of modern architecture, and the shear scale of what goes into it. In particular, I'm a huge fan of Norman Foster, and his agency Foster + Partners. Ive been interested in Foster for a number of years now, keeping up to date with his latest developments and previous projects. His attention to detail makes him like the Jony Ive of the architecture world. Having visited a number of his buildings, I can safely say that they are as impressive in person as they are on paper and behind a screen. Some of his work includes 30 St Mary Axe (The Gherkin), London City Hall, the SEC Hydro and Wembley Stadium.
Now, we all know that my favourite brand and company is Apple. After all, that's why we're here.
So, bringing all these together, we come to the all in one solution to "What is Great Design, by Bailey Tuddenham"; the 5th Avenue Apple Store. I first visited this store in 2014, prior to its more recent renovations.
The majority of the store lies beneath the city in the heart of Manhattan. Above it sits a 32-foot glass cube entrance, which stands out against the city backdrop. The cube is constructed of 15 glass panels which are held together by a specially designed structural system that allows the cube to float above the ground. It was designed by Bohlin Cywinski Jackson in 2006, and in its first year, averaged sales of over $1 million a day.
Once you enter the cube, you make your way down a beautiful spiral staircase which leads your to the underground store; a huge space that counters the compactness and busyness of the city above it. The store really gives you room to move about and take in the products and environment.
In 2019, the 5th Avenue Apple Store underwent a big makeover, with changes made to the overall design and layout of the store. The architects responsible for the renovations were Foster + Partners. Adjustments were made to the glass cube, replacing sections with single pieces of curved glass for a more streamlined and modern design, with a stronger focus on the use of natural light. Foster also redesigned the staircase, creating a new, stainless steel design that simultaneously mirrored the store below and displayed the city above. The underground space was expanded, too, with an added area for workshops, events and presentations.
In addition to the adjustments made to the glass cube, changes were made to the plaza that surrounds it. Wide steps were added at either end that invite people onto the plaza. Trees were planted at both ends, too, along with stone seaters and fountains beneath their shade. These provide a calm place to rest, with the fountains reducing noise from the traffic.
Foster + Partners also designed a set of "Skylenses". With nine positioned either side of the glass cube, the Skylenses are seamless, curved sculptures that "provide a place to sit whilst providing a reflected perspective of the city’s architecture". However, they're not just sculptural. The Skylenses also feature an "innovative circulatory cooling system" below the top surface. The system absorbs energy from the sun and offers frost protection, which allows people to use them throughout the year. And that's not all! The mirrored glass on the Skylense also channels natural light into the underground store, too!
Overall, the 5th Avenue Apple Store is one of the most stunning retail spaces in the world. From its exterior to its interior, pre and post Foster, the design and architecture of this space is incredible. The use of space in such a busy area is well considered and relaxing, which is not a word that usually comes with Manhattan. You can be assured that, next time I'm in the big apple, you'll find me at Apple, sitting on a Skylense.
Surroundings - 10 / 10
The store is situated in the best city on earth, New York. Surrounded by the stunning skyscrapers, and placed on the corner of Central Park, the views around the 5th Avenue store are unmatched.
Aesthetic - 9 / 10
The glass cube is not only iconic, but a beautiful piece of engineering and design. The new plaza surrounding it, created by Norman Foster in 2019, brings a new depth to the space, and welcomes visitors to stop and take in the view. The interior of the retail space is similar to most Apple Stores, but extremely spacious compared to the bustling city above it.
Staff - 10 / 10
There's a reason this store makes a million dollars a day. The staff at the 5th Avenue Apple Store are incredible. They're extremely interactive, full of energy and genuinely excited about what they do.
Originality - 10 / 10
You cannot get any more original than the 5th Avenue Apple Store. The fact that this was designed in 2006, and it is still as iconic today as it was back then, speaks for itself. Nothing existed like it before, and nothing has managed to replicate it since.
Layout - 9 / 10
The store is generally well laid out and easy to navigate. However, due to the shear size and how busy it can get at peak times, it can take a moment or two to remember exactly where you're going. The layout of the plaza is stunning, with the glass cube situated directly in the centre and 9 Skylenses either side, placed in a grid format.
TOTAL - 9.6 / 10