29 Mar Apple’s Chicago River Flagship Store Taking shape
Right now, the glass walls starting to encircle Apple’s new flagship store alongside the Chicago River, by North Michigan Avenue, don’t look like much. That’s exactly the point.
Eventually the scaffolding will be taken down, leaving floor-to-ceiling glass walls opening a view from the Pioneer Court plaza to the river.
“We wanted the building to be as light and transparent as possible,” said James McGrath, a partner at Foster + Partners, the London-based architectural firm that designed the Chicago store and Apple’s Cupertino, Calif., headquarters.
Apple isn’t saying when its $27 million store under construction in front of 401 N. Michigan Ave. will open, but sources have said it is targeting October.
Michigan Avenue’s shopping district traditionally has clustered farther north, and Apple already has a store at 679 N. Michigan, which the new location will replace. But the retail corridor is expanding south, and the riverfront spot was an opportunity to build an updated store bridging the gap between the parks and tourist sites along the southern stretch of Michigan Avenue and the shops farther north, McGrath said.
The retailer wants its stores to be gathering places where people can check out products, learn how to use them, attend public events or simply check out the view from the plaza. “We want it to be more than just a shopping experience,” McGrath said.
The glass walls and thin roof supported by four columns are meant to nearly invisibly connect what’s inside the store and what’s out. All retail is below street level, to avoid blocking the view overlooking the river.
The transparent walls, 14 feet high at street level and 32 feet high near the river, are made of four layers of half-inch thick glass joined with layers of stronger, thicker laminated glass so they won’t bend in the wind or break if hit ? though they can crack.
The roof is made from a lightweight material used in yacht hulls to keep it thin 4 feet thick at its widest point and 4 inches at its narrowest, with an Apple logo on top.
The store will have many of the new elements introduced at a San Francisco Apple store that opened last year, McGrath said, including the outdoor plaza, a gathering place centered around a video wall Apple calls “The Forum” that can host events and classes, a stretch of windowlike displays showing off products and indoor ficus trees.
Early images of the store’s design drew comparisons to a high-tech take on Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie-style homes. Foster + Partners wasn’t trying to echo Wright’s aesthetic, but McGrath said the connection wasn’t surprising.
“It’s a response to its environment, just as the Prairie style was,” he said.
Chicago Tribune 2017