Apple has unveiled its new store on San Francisco’s Union Square designed in collaboration with UK architecture firm Foster + Partners. The new store opens its signature 42-foot tall sliding glass doors to customers and offers many new features and service rolling out to Apple retails stores worldwide.

“Fifteen years ago today Apple opened its first two stores and we’re thrilled to mark the occasion with the opening of Apple Union Square in San Francisco,” said Angela Ahrendts, Apple’s senior vice president of Retail and Online Stores. “We are not just evolving our store design, but its purpose and greater role in the community as we educate and entertain visitors and serve our network of local entrepreneurs.” 


Apple Union Square’s glass doors open the store to Post Street and Union Square. The building’s unique position connects San Francisco’s most famous square to a rejuvenated plaza to the north, creating a beautiful gathering place for the community. The art-filled plaza offers seating, public Wi-Fi, a 50-foot tall “green wall” and regular acoustic performances.


Taking advantage of San Francisco’s moderate climate, the steel framed glass sliding doors, measuring 20.5 foot by 42 foot on the south side and 20.5 foot by 26.5 foot to the north, encourage natural ventilation throughout the store. Fresh air is drawn through the integrated structural spine before being expelled out through the roof. The store is powered by 100 percent renewable energy, including power produced by 130 photovoltaic panels integrated into the building’s roof.

Apple has always been a pioneer in the use of glass.  The treads of the glass staircases on either side of the store are held in place by precisely engineered metal lozenge shaped ‘pucks’ that are discreetly embedded into the glass tread and the stringer to give the impression of floating glass steps – an appearance of effortless simplicity, which belies the complexity of the engineering solution.


The generous 40 foot-high volume is divided horizontally by a dramatic cantilevered mezzanine floor which tapers to less than 1 foot and extends 32 feet from the rear wall to create a 16 foot-high piano nobile. The extremely slim column-free floor structure is made possible by tuned mass dampers to eliminate vibration. The impression is of a floating stage in the centre of the space in dialogue with Union Square, creating a spectacular living room for the city.


Pushing the boundaries of innovation, the luminous white ceiling, which appears as an opaque surface during the day, surprises visitors as it gradually turns on and dramatically illuminates the space at night. The custom-made lighting panels emit a pure, even white glow, as well as having the capability to absorb ambient noise. The integrated grid that holds the ceiling panels in place has been designed so that all the services can be precisely located, while also making it flexible enough to accommodate any future technological advances.


The Apple Union Square introduces five new features. ‘The Avenue’ is a specially designed area for the display of accessories incorporated into the central spine wall. The ‘Forum’, a new learning environment, where specialists from various fields come to entertain, inspire and teach, will occupy a prime central position on the mezzanine against a vast video wall which will also act as an animated backdrop for Union Square beyond. To the rear of the Forum is the ‘Genius Grove’ with a more relaxed setting amongst a small grove of trees, each within a single planter that doubles as a comfortable place to sit and rest while an Apple Genius answers any questions. The unique design of the tree planters was a collaboration between Foster + Partners and Apple’s Industrial Design Studio. The ‘Boardroom’ – a place for meetings, conversations and partnerships for local entrepreneurs and enterprises is discreetly placed behind the green wall.

The new store opens its doors to the public today at 10 a.m. (GMT-7).


all images courtesy of Foster + Partners