Apple Store 5th Ave – An Exercise in Perception

It’s no secret that design can make or break a space. Good design defines the experience of architecture, generating complex relations between the viewer and space.

This is especially true for retail – a good design translates the philosophy of the company into a multi-sensorial experience that alters perception and keeps the participant engaged. One of the best examples of such spaces is the Apple Store on Fifth Avenue.

Most of us are well acquainted with Apple’s design philosophy, at least during Steve Jobs’ days: harmoniously intertwining functionality with simplicity, with esthetics as a driving principle. These ideas are flawlessly translated into architecture in the iconic glass cube and, more importantly, what’s underneath it.

The site was initially a shopping area below street level that proved to be unsuccessful due to poor lighting and a general uninviting structuring of the public space. When Apple bought the land and decided to open a store it tackled these issues: the glass cube serves as a brand marker and an indicator that something is going on beneath street level. The perforations in the plaza are actually skylights for the store, which help bring natural light to the underground space.

The cube is purely glass & metal, while the main material for the retail space is wood, which together with the natural light gives a familiar, cozy feel to the store. Maybe this is why it is open 24/7 and is one of the most successful Apple Stores worldwide. Also, the space had to be completely revamped to accommodate the large number of daily visitors – the main changes were the widening of the entrance mechanism, together with the increase of the ceiling height, which helps allow the space to breathe even when at full capacity.

For me, the Apple Store on Fifth Avenue is a must-see when visiting New York, regardless of the visitor´s interests – quality can and has to be enjoyed by everyone.

Human perception of architecture has always been of great interest to me. That is why I chose to dive in the subject for my Bachelor´s thesis, back in Madrid. For more insight, I invite you to read my work here (Spanish). Would absolutely love to hear your feedback!

Theodor Harasim

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