My recent posts at World-Architects


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Apple Moves Down Michigan Avenue

I heard a few months ago that Apple would be shuttering its store on North Michigan Avenue...

[Google Street View]

...and heading south to a site next to the Chicago River:

[Google Street View]

Now some details on the move have been released by Blair Kamin and a colleague at the Chicago Tribune, who scooped some renderings of a glassy pavilion designed by Norman Foster that eats up part of Pioneer Court, the plaza in front of the Equitable Building.

[Looking south across the plaza]

Like other high-profile Apple stores that have been built since the first Chicago store in 2003, the proposed store takes up two floors, with a glass box popping above the plaza to serve as an entrance. Just think of the cube in New York, the cylinder in Shanghai, and the Foster-designed store in Istanbul.

[Aerial rendering]

Yet the most remarkable thing about the design is the way it addresses the river. This is not a store buried under a plaza; it is one that visually opens itself to the riverfront promenade and water beyond through glass walls. This makes the section of the store a bit more complex while putting its insides on display. More importantly, this emphasizes the importance of the river in the age of Rahm Emanuel (downstream to the west are two phases of the Riverwalk designed by Carol Ross Barney, with one more on the way).

[Looking north across the Chicago River]

Although the renderings barely hint at what is going on inside the store, it's clear that the super-thin roof is one of the most important design elements, a solid yin to the yang of the super-clear glass walls, what have become a Foster staple, from his addition to the SC Johnson campus to the "spaceship" being built for Apple in Cupertino, California.

[Looking east at promenade level]


  1. Nice design, it seems to relate well with the surroundings, enhancing the urban environment. I'm not sure how Apple got hold of that real estate. It looks like it was (or is) city owned property. It appears from the photos and drawing that the building creates is a great addition to public space. In my opinion building those type of connections is a lost art, especially in cities like St. Louis, where I from.
    Still I wonder from an urban planning standpoint this wouldn't be a better site for a restaurant or similar gathering spot with tables. A hang out space Still the architectural design contributes to the environment, modest and exuberant a the same time. it gives shape and supports human experience along the river.
    I'm just not sure a retail store is the best use of the tiered space of the building that appears in the rendering. What is it, the goal to have views of the Chicago River while you shop?
    I tried to click on the link of the Tribune Story but they wanted me to register to read it, not sure if I want another inbox of offers.

    1. The below-grade portion used to be a food court, and from the few times I ate there, not a very successful one. It was geared to people working in the Equitable and other nearby buildings rather than the Riverwalk. But now that the Riverwalk is becoming more popular it makes sense to orient a shop to it. I'm pretty sure the city sees the Apple store as a way to increase foot traffic along the river.

  2. I'm not keen on any taking of part of this plaza like this.
    I'd also like to say, if this store were a house, we'd call the lower level opening out to the river a "walk-out basement."
    What's the construction of the "super-thin roof"? How many feet of snow can it hold? How resistant is it to debris from high winds?

  3. Renderings make me crazy what with almost only thin white able-bodied youngs represented...


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