767 Fifth Avenue
New York City
Bohlin Cywinski Jackson 2006, glass cube reconstructed 2011
Structural glass engineered by Eckersley O'Callahan
The entrance cube to Apple's underground store on Fifth Avenue represents probably the purest form of transparent architecture. First, the cube is empty, avoiding the challenge of transparency simply revealing the clutter within, as for example at Dominique Perrault's Hôtel Industriel in Paris. This emptiness is shared with I.M. Pei's Pyramid at the Louvre: both are grand entry canopies over a spiral staircase into a subterranean plaza. Yet the reality is that the Louvre pyramid is strongly visible in its courtyard, both becasuse of its contrast with the surrounding buildings, and because of its black metal structural frame. The 32-foot cube at the Apple Store is made from structural glass, with no metal framing; and its rectilinear profile blends in with the General Motors skyscraper behind it.
When first designed and built in 2006, the cube was already impressively transparent. Each wall was made up of 18 glass sheets, with discreet steel fixings. The effect was clear, but crystalline.
Only five years into its life, Apple closed the store temporarily to give it a hardware upgrade. They rebuilt the glass cube with even greater transparency and purity. In the new design (see top of this page), vast structural glass sheets run the whole way up the cube, so that each wall is now made up of only three panes. They crystalline effect has given way to an extreme minimalism – less retail and more temple.
Taking the transparency theme further, the entrance in the front of the cube leads into to a structural glass spiral staircase, winding around a cylindrical glass elevator.
The Apple Store has succeed in creating two new thriving spaces, both above ground in the new plaza around the cube, and below ground in the store itself, 24 hours a day.
Simon Glynn 2008, updated 2012
How to visit
The Apple Store is on Fifth Avenue between 58th and 59th Streets, at the southeast corner of Central Park, in front of the General Motors building.
The store is open 24/7. For more information visit www.apple.com/retail/fifthavenue or call +1 212 336 1440.
Books and other web sites
More information about the building is at the architect's web site at www.bcj.com.
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