Apple and Foster+Partners bring modern architecture to life with these iconic Apple Store designs

What happens when the most famous tech company in the world, known for its attention to detail and design skills meets up with an architectural powerhouse with skills to bring their dreams to life? We get these landmark structures. Apple has partnered up with Foster+Partners repeatedly to successfully design a store that represents not only Apple‘s design philosophy but also to reflect and respect the nature of the environment they are building the store in. Each store design has been drafted with love to create these stores, that is not just a store, but rather an experience.

Deemed as one of the “most ambitious” projects by Foster+Partners, the Apple Store for Chicago boasts a slim wooden panel roof whose shape is inspired by the company’s MacBook design. Located on the city’s river edge beside the North Michigan Avenue, Apple’s chief designer Jonathan Ive says about the store, “Apple Michigan Avenue is about removing boundaries between inside and outside, reviving important urban connections within the city.”

With Singapore officially ranking as the greenest city in Asia, the design of Apple Orchard Road, the first Apple flagship in the city is one of the greenest Apple spaces ever built by Foster+Partners. The building’s most prominent feature is its trees – including eight mature trees at the entrance and the twelve ficus trees inside. Taking the term ‘Going Green’ in a more detailed manner, the building, named Genius Grove (and not Genius Bar!) is designed to be sustainable by integrating an array of technology that ensures all the energy used in the architecture is pulled from renewable sources.

The Apple store in Milan has a theatrical appeal to it – the store actually is ‘sunken’ in the plaza, with fountains creating a wall of water through which everyone enters whereas the steps leading to the store form an amphitheater, with the water creating a dramatic backdrop to the stage. “The fountain is an expression of child-like excitement that speaks to each one of us,” said Stefan Behling, head of the studio at Foster + Partners. “In its simplicity, it echoes the idea of walking into a big fountain without getting wet and the joy of being alive.”

Apple’s landmark store in China is the Hangzhou store and it is characterized by a 15-meter-high glowing ceiling and glass staircases, all adding to the white, almost minimal yet modern design aesthetics that Apple sports. According to Foster + Partners, the design “combines an understanding of the local context with the philosophy of simplicity, beauty, and technical innovation that characterizes Apple’s products”.

Meet the Apple Xinyi A13. Situated in Taipei, this vibrantly hip area is full of modern stores and the original skyscraper that hosts the store creates an oasis of calm. The attraction of this store is the use of water to balance the surroundings – the store is flanked on both sides by water sculptures. These basalt sculptures let the water flow over them, creating a serene mirror effect that shows the surroundings reflected against a black backdrop.

Apple’s most iconic store is the one located on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, with the majority of the store located below the plaza. The store was completed by Bohlin Cywinski Jackson in 2006, with an “iconic glass cube” but was redesigned by Foster + Partners in 2019. Being an iconic location, this was one of the most photographed attractions in the city and was Steve Jobs’ defining symbol for Apple Fifth Avenue. “It’s a 100 percent design collaboration with Jony,” Foster + Partners’ head of studio Stefan Behling said after completing the overhaul in collaboration with Jony Ive.

Kyoto being the cultural capital of Japan, the Apple store in Kyoto reflects the serene nature of the city. Foster + Partners used the aesthetics of a paper lantern to convey this feeling. Simple and minimal in its design, the storefront has an almost translucent facade, thanks to the internal wall of paper panels that stands just beyond the glass and aluminum exterior.

The Apple Store on the Champs-Élysées in Paris holds an almost magical charm that blends in with Paris’s well-earned reputation of being the city of love. Located on the corner of Champs-Élysées and Rue Washington, the store has been built within what is described by Foster + Partners as an “quintessential Parisian apartment”. The store carefully merges the existing architecture of the apartment with modern interiors to balance both – the old and the new age worlds. The pièce de résistance, however, is the kaleidoscopic solar roof made up of glass pyramids (maybe paying homage to the glass pyramids at the Louvre Museum?) that bathes the interior of the store with beautifully dappled sunlight.

The Apple store in Macau resembles a translucent cube, emanating an aura of tranquility and inviting people by creating a contrast to the bustling city it sits in. Foster+Partners amplified this feeling with the addition of a bamboo grove on the exterior of the store, creating an almost physical barrier to separate the two environments. The theme of using bamboo plants is repeated throughout the interiors as well, with a central bamboo grove that is highlighted with skylights, giving it an otherworldly glow.

Apple’s latest store in Tokyo has a row of two-storey protruding windows, giving the outsiders walking by a view from these cabinet-like windows. Designed by Foster + Partners and positioned near the Imperial Palace, Marunouchi, these protruding windows have been cast using aluminum, reflecting the use of aluminum in the Apple devices. Balancing the concrete and aluminum exterior are bamboo plants that maintain a sense of tranquility in this busy city.

Apple’s attention to detail is carried onto their store designs, each one a mix of their design values and the culture of the location the stores are present in. After all, that is the point of great architectural design- to reflect the values of its owner without disrupting the harmony of its location.