Making An Entrance

My son will complete the purchase of his first house next week. We’ve helped him mull over properties the last few months, scrutinizing everything from floor plans to foundations. But I always focus on whether a house has a formal entry or not. There’s something about a foyer that feels essential to me, as if to say, “Welcome!”.  Apple must’ve felt the same way when they designed their flagship store in New York City. Welcome to Apple Fifth Avenue.

Apple Fifth Avenue

If you’ve been to an Apple Store (and who am I kidding here; we’ve all been to an Apple Store), you know they’re essentially a room of tables and shelves. You’re greeted up front, asked what brings you in, and directed to wherever you need to go. Apple Fifth Avenue, on the other hand, needs no greeters.  Its dramatic foyer beckons you in all by itself.

Apple Fifth Avenue’s entry is a 32 ft. glass cube dropped into the middle of a plaza in downtown Manhattan.  The adjacent skyscrapers make the transparent structure stand out even more.  There’s no signage whatsoever; simply a large, suspended Apple logo inviting you to descend the elevator or elegant spiral staircase to the store itself (which is entirely below ground).  It’s the same strategy employed by the Louvre in Paris, with its above-ground glass pyramid serving as the entrance to the museum’s lobby below.

Plaza skylights and “lenses”

Without this entry I’m not sure Apple Fifth Avenue’s design would garner much attention, yet there are other elements worth noting.  The surrounding plaza is dotted with 62 frosted skylights, bringing welcome natural light to the retail space below.  The plaza also hosts 18 “lenses” – reflective steel shells with glass tops – to give you peeks downstairs.  In the store itself you’ll find several (real) trees, with seating incorporated into their circular planters.

Planters double as seating

Apple Fifth Avenue became so popular a destination that secondary entrances were added (two staircases in the plaza) and the square footage of the store itself was doubled.

One of the more interesting stories behind Apple Fifth Avenue’s design concerned the size of the entry.  CEO Steve Jobs wanted a 40-ft. cube while the property owner insisted on 30.  To bridge the gap, a full-scale mock-up was created and placed in the plaza for Apple executives to see.  The problem: Apple didn’t want to draw the attention of the public any more than they had to.  So the mock-up was installed for just a couple of hours at 2 a.m. on a random weekday.  When a 40-ft. cube was deemed too large (sorry, Steve), it was quickly disassembled to reveal a smaller cube inside – the size of the one you enter today.

It’s about time I included a NYC building in my posts on architecture, wouldn’t you agree?  New Yorkers know I had plenty of choices, like the Empire State Building, Waldorf Astoria Hotel, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and Grand Central Station.  But those have been around a long time.  Apple Fifth Avenue opened its doors less than twenty years ago, and is already in the top sixty on the list of America’s Favorite Architecture.

As I recall the houses we looked at with my son, some had no foyer whatsoever.  You walked across the threshold and found yourself standing in the front room or living room.  That’s no way to make an entrance, is it?  Apple knows better.  At most of their stores you get a greeter.  At Apple Fifth Avenue you get a full-on welcome. 

Now for the latest on LEGO Fallingwater…


LEGO Fallingwater – Update #10 (Read how this project got started in Perfect Harmony)

We’ve placed the very last brick into place, closing the assembly manual on our ten-week construction of LEGO Fallingwater.  92 pages (or 100%, or 222 minutes) into the build, here is the final product:

LEGO Fallingwater

The angle of this photo is intended to match the photo above so you can compare the model to the real thing.  I want to label the model “crude” but how about “rudimentary” instead?  The intricacies of LEGO models have come a long way since this one.

A note about missing pieces.  As I worked through the final steps I realized a handful of pieces were missing.  I write this off to a less-than-perfect mechanism doling out the pieces for each model (or was this done by hand?)  The LEGO Grand Piano wasn’t missing a single piece out of 3,000+.  The gaps aren’t obvious at a glance so we can still call Fallingwater complete.  Thanks for coming along for the ride!

Now for one last nod to Frank Lloyd Wright…

Oak Park Home & Studio

It’s fitting to finish where it all began.  Wright’s first design (of which he was the sole architect) was his own home, built just west of Chicago in 1889.

Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio, Oak Park, IL

The house’s style, “Seaside Colonial” (borrowing from similar designs on the East Coast) was Wright’s first experiment with the Prairie Style elements that would later come together in so many of his other designs.  The exterior is grounded with brick and stone while the interior has a largely open floor plan.  The barrel-vaulted playroom was built on a smaller scale; a deliberate nod to its young occupants.

Barrel-vaulted playroom

The rapid success of Wright’s architecture practice allowed for the expansion of the house a few years later, including the large octagonal structure you see on the left (for drafting studios, offices, a library, and a reception hall).  Wright wore all the design hats on this project, including the mechanical systems, lighting, furniture, and decor.

Wright’s Oak Park Home & Studio is a National Historic Landmark and is open to the public.  Even better, you can take a walking tour through the nearby neighborhoods to see ten houses he designed that still stand today.

Some content sourced from the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation website, and Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.

Author: Dave

Three hundred posts would suggest I have something to say… This blog was born from a desire to elevate the English language, highlighting eloquent words from days gone by. The stories I share are snippets of life itself, and each comes with a bonus: a dusted-off word I hope you’ll go on to use more often. Read “Deutschland-ish Improvements” to learn about my backyard European wish list. Try “Slush Fun” for the throwback years of the 7-Eleven convenience store. Or drink in "Iced Coffee" to discover the plight of the rural French cafe. On the lighter side, read "Late Night Racquet Sports" for my adventures with our latest moth invasion. As Walt Whitman said, “That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.” Here then, my verse. Welcome to "Life In A Word".

31 thoughts on “Making An Entrance”

  1. When in NYC I’ve walked by the Apple Store + the Empire State Building, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and Grand Central Station. Also we’ve stayed at Waldorf Astoria Hotel, which at the time was an overpriced dump of a place but it might be better now. NYC is something else, both the buildings and the people.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I read several years ago where the Waldorf had been purchased, and like you I hope they renovated the old girl. The New York Palace was a much better choice on the few trips we’ve made to NYC.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t know of the NY Palace, but we’ve also stayed in the Warwick Hotel. It’s where Cary Grant lived for a while. Built by William Randolph Hurst, maybe? I rather liked it.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hearst Castle was almost the topic of one of my architecture posts. It’s well worth the visit if you haven’t been. There’s no way I would’ve been able to describe the grandeur of the place in the number of words I limit myself to. Come to think of it, the same holds true for the Biltmore. I just scratched the surface on that one.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Dave,
    It is interesting what people focus on when purchasing a home.
    In my apartment you walk in and you are already in the kitchen and living room. I do have a doormat before you walk in that says “Welcome” – does that help? lol
    I was focused in location, location, location, and safety and affordability.
    Awesome post with a lot of cool info. Yes, NY was feeling left out.
    Great progress on the Fallingwater – looks so cool!
    So, did your son buy a house with a welcoming foyer?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Absolutely, a doormat makes a difference. I remember purchasing one for my daughter’s apartment because we knew she’d never spend the money. And yes, my son’s house has a foyer. I’m don’t think not having one would’ve been a deal breaker, but at least we get a “welcome” before we really step into the house.


    1. With that in mind Margy, a “mudroom” can also be an essential. We have horses, and I can’t imagine not having that transition space when we go to/from the barn.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I’d love to see this store someday. I thought they were all look-a-likes but clearly this one’s a cut above. I’m sure there are even more aspects worth noting; details you don’t know about unless you actually visit the place.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I bought my latest laptop at this apple store. I dream of having a big foyer so I can put a fancy Christmas tree or decorate the banister with garland. Congrats to your son, I know it’s not easy to get a house these days!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have no doubt you’ll have your foyer someday Lyssy, and it’ll be one of the best-decorated in the neighborhood. Yes, we’re proud of our son. He’s been saving ever since college graduation (except for those couple of years living in pricey NYC 😉 ) He kept running into bidding wars with investors and flippers because the Dallas area is such a hot market right now, but persistence (and a full-price offer) finally paid off.


  4. I like have a formal entry to my home. My problem is that I normally arrive to my house in my car and walk into the house through the garage and kitchen. Just seems wrong to have a nice entryway that only my guests get to use.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Such interesting details about the NYC Apple Store, Dave. My one and only trip to NYC in 2005 did not include a visit to the Apple Store. Had I read this post before going, I might have made the effort to see a 30 ft. cube of glass, at least on a bus ride-by. / You’re right: the Lego version of Fallingwater is quite rudimentary, but still recognizable. Congratulations on completing it! How many “builds” does this make?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You were a year too early for Apple Fifth Avenue, as it opened its doors in 2006. I was also in NYC in 2005 (did we pass each other on Fifth Avenue?) but I was focused on an event for my daughter as well as the typical tourist attractions.

      Fallingwater is my third LEGO model after the U.S. Capitol and Grand Piano. Nothing else in their portfolio attracts me, but no doubt LEGO will add to their Architecture series and before I know it I’ll be snapping pieces together again!


  6. Congratulations on finishing your project Dave! I never knew the pyramid at the Louvre was an entryway, I thought it was just a structure, but admit I don’t know much about it other than from a Dan Brown novel! I love a formal entry way myself, but if the house is small, it takes up space.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Louvre Pyramid (designed by renowned architect I.M. Pei) solved the same problem Apple Fifth Avenue faced over time: too many visitors. Originally you walked into the museum at ground level instead of below. I can imagine the stir the design caused when the Pyramid opened, and yes, it will be forever linked to “The Da Vinci Code”.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I must have raised independent children because they picked a house before I knew they were seriously looking. And fortunately, there is a modest entryway.

    I have not seen the Apple building but it looks interesting. I will probably get a chance to see the Wright house because one son lives/works in the River Forest and Oak Park areas of Chicago.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Once you understand Wright’s style of architecture it’s fun to try to find his houses without knowing the addresses. My fellow architecture students and I took this approach because we were too cheap to pay for the guided tour. We simply roamed the streets of Oak Park and River Forest until we found them. It certainly helped to have studied them in the classroom beforehand 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. This is a very particular period for me because I’m looking for a house but here few houses have a nice entrance. Most of the houses are unoccupied and therefore everything is neglected. And I don’t like apartments because I have two big dogs and the most important thing for me is the garden, which is big enough for them to run and play, have a barbecue, put a pool, have parties and have fun. 😁


  9. Congratulations on finishing Fallingwater Dave – how interesting that you finished the 3,000-piece grand piano with no missing pieces and this one has several missing pieces … QC was not doing so well here.

    “We’ve all been to an Apple Store … ” – nope, I have never had an Apple product, even an iPod or iPad, but would love to have a Mac computer. I cannot use one as I remote in to work and we have a Windows-based system, so it would not be compatible. I do love my HP laptop though and I mention this because you once worked for HP: I still have my original HP laptop purchased in 2009.

    That is an awesome building with the glass foyer. I like the look of a foyer, but my house is too small to have one. Our home in Canada was bigger and had a vestibule though – do people still have vestibules? I would love a mudroom, a great place to hang wet coats, shed snow-or-rain-covered hats and put on your boots. In the cellarway, I balance like a flamingo, on one leg, trying to get ready to go outside

    A tip of the hat to FLW for wearing so many hats in designing his beautiful home/studio.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’d forgotten about the concept of a vestibule, Linda. It makes so much sense in climates like yours – convenient and comfortable for guests arriving at your front door (and key to keeping the house clean). Down here in the South you could say a covered front porch accomplishes the same thing.

      My own experience with Apple stores is relatively young. I caved to an iPhone several years ago but remain staunchly in the Windows world otherwise. HP’s strength is its printers but it’s nice to hear your 2009 laptop is still kicking.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. If I ever moved, I would like the nicety of a vestibule or a mud room – both would suit me fine. I’m a fan of HP. I am using a 2014 HP laptop everyday now. I am not in a hurry to budge from Windows 7 – a Dell Windows 10 laptop ordered from out computer guy for work waits in the wings and I routinely update it, but I never cared for Dell and the only item that appeals to me is it has a bigger screen.


  10. Wow, I’ll have to look for the Apple plaza next time I get to New York. How did I miss it? The last time I was there a few years ago, I stayed on the west side and walked to Central Park from the other side. I always enjoy learning a little about architecture from your posts. And congrats on the Fallingwater completion!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Fallingwater was bittersweet to complete because it brought an end to my posts on architecture. But the next LEGO model should inspire another series. The Eiffel Tower would be the perfect excuse to explore France through blog posts.

      Liked by 1 person


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