First Jony Ive-designed Apple Store opens

Ben Lovejoy, writing for 9to5Mac:

With Jony Ive having taken responsibility for all aspects of design throughout Apple, including its retail stores, we’re now getting our first look at the future look of Apple Stores in the form of a press preview of the brand new store in Brussels, Belgium. Local site ANV was there to bring us a great set of photos.

The exterior is dramatic, with huge, floor-to-ceiling glass panels that curve around the store’s facade. The interior is most notable for including trees with surrounding benches, and ANV reports that this is the seating area for customers awaiting Genius Bar appointments.

Apple Stores are one of my favorite Apple products, and I was eagerly awaiting Ive's vision. A few thoughts:

They didn't reinvent the wheel, but this new store is an interesting blend between classic Apple Store simplicity (I would say that it's even more streamlined than ever before) and an amplified assimilation of the store's surroundings that extend indoors.

Apple has always done a magnificent job of integrating these stores into the current landscape. Rather than just tear down what came before it, they frequently restore existing architecture and interior features to create unique communal experiences. They are both aware and reverent of the culture, the historical significance of each location they choose. They maintain it whenever possible. I don't know of another company that adheres to such a strict principle.

Some of my favorite examples of this:

  • Apple Store Soho, once a U.S. Post Office. The exterior still proudly maintains its ties to its former life. While large glass windows display the latest work of Retail Corporate's Visuals Team, nothing but a small sign dangling from the entrance advertises its existence from a distance.

  • Apple Store Opéra, previously a bank. Apple restored an existing balcony, and built an exact replica opposite it to maintain symmetry in the store. Original interior flourishes remain intact, including a carved wooden staircase, wrought iron railings, and mosaic tile floors.

  • Apple Store Amsterdam is built into the Hirsch Building, which began its life as a fashion house. The grand, ornate exterior contrasts perfectly with the stark white interior pillars. An atrium, reminiscent of Covent Garden's, has a glass roof which was built specifically for the store to allow for more natural light.

  • Special mention to Chicago's Lincoln Park store, which is an example of where Apple made the best decision possible and leveled nearly an entire city block where a decrepit gas station once stood. A large, single-story steel structure houses the store. The green roof collects rainwater that feeds into a fountain mere steps from one of three of the store's entrances. Apple even spent $4 million renovating the North/Clybourn CTA stop, which, if you had ever seen it before, was a massive shithole.

This new store in Belgium feels like a very natural progression of these ideas. The sweeping curved glass façade invites natural light and helps blur the line between where the world ends and the store begins. The placement of trees inside the store was, admittedly, a little jarring to me at first. But after seeing photos from inside the store, the trees clearly look like those that exist just outside the store. It's almost as if Apple just built a store around a little park. Their inclusion feels consistent, and more in touch with its surroundings than any other store. I like them.

However, if this story proves to be true, and Apple begins placing trees in all of their new stories, I worry that what feels very natural in certain locations begins to take on a tacky, mall atrium aesthetic in others. I assume the same thought and care that has been put into this new store will extend to all future locations, but that's an initial concern for this new direction.

Also, it needs to be said that those new stools look significantly better than the old black ones.