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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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”.