First Look: Apple is back — bigger than ever — on Fifth Avenue

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First Look: Apple is back — bigger than ever — on Fifth Avenue

By Marianne Wilson - 09/20/2019
Apple has reopened its flagship on Fifth Avenue in New York City after a two-and-a-half year renovation and while its iconic luminous glass cube remains, almost everything else is new.

For starters, the transformed store, which is located underground with a street-level public plaza entry, is nearly double the size of the original (32,000 sq. ft.). A higher ceiling and an infusion of natural light have eliminated the basement-like feel of the old space. A new ventilation system, integrated in the stone floor, responds intelligently to occupancy levels and outdoor weather, optimizing energy usage.

The plaza has been totally redesigned and is lined by 28 trees and bordered with linear fountains, providing an inviting retreat — complete with free Wi-Fi from Apple — from the busy city locale. The glass cube, in the center of the plaza and one of the most photographed sites in the city, is now flanked by mirrored glass “skylenses” and 62 skylights that flood natural light into the subterranean store below.

The innovative skylenses, arranged in a grid either side of the cube, have curved surfaces for seating. They feature an innovative circulatory cooling system beneath the top surface, designed to absorb solar energy and offer frost protection, allowing people to use them throughout the year.

Visitors enter the reimagined Apple by walking down a stainless steel spiral staircase (replacing the previous glass one), or by riding a circular elevator, into the grand hall. The staircase features 43 cantilevered stair treads that support a floating cylinder of glass. Above it is a back-lit, cloud-like ceiling made from three-dimensional curved fabric that combines artificial (tunable white LEDs) and natural light to match the real-time and changing hues of sunlight throughout the day.

“The Skylenses literally bring the skies underground and the innovative tunable white light ceiling allows us to match the exact wavelengths of sunlight at different times of day, blurring the boundary between inside and outside,” said Stefan Behling, head of studio, Foster + Partners, whose integrated design and engineering teams executed the project in close collaboration with the design team at Apple.

The interior reflects Apple’s current “community space” aesthetic and features plenty of trees, seating for classes and presentations and special displays. Highlights include an Apple Watch Studio where customers can match a band with a watch and an augmented reality station where they can see how the technology works on Apple phones and iPads. The area dedicated to Apple’s Genius Bar has doubled and now runs the length of the store, which has 900 employees who can speak 36 languages.

The Fifth Avenue location is the first Apple store in the world to include not one, but two “Boardrooms” for private events and meetings with creators. And it is the second in the U.S. and the third globally to feature an “Experience Room,” a custom space designed to highlight how Apple’s products and services work together, reported 9to5mac.com.

More than any other location, Apple Fifth Avenue is closely associated with founder Steve Jobs, who opened the store in 2006 and personally welcomed the first customers to enter the cube. Since then, it has had more than 57 million visitors, more annually than the Statue of Liberty or Empire State Building. It remains the only Apple retail location open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

“We couldn’t be more excited and more ready to welcome customers back to Apple Fifth Avenue,” said Deirdre O’Brien, Apple’s senior VP of retail + people. “Not only is the new space and experience absolutely inspiring, our amazing retail Geniuses, Creative Pros and Specialists have worked so hard preparing for this day. Who they are, and the talents they bring, are so essential to the excellence we strive for at Apple.”