Apple Opens New Chicago Store

John Hill
20. October 2017
All photographs courtesy of Apple

Apple Michigan Avenue, designed by Norman Foster, opens today on a site overlooking the Chicago River.

Sporting a slender wood-lined roof, highly transparent glass walls on four sides, and a cascading riverfront site, the new store is a much heftier architectural statement than its predecessor a few blocks up Michigan Avenue. The flagship store's location on a riverwalk just steps from the Michigan Avenue Bridge reinforces the increasing importance of the Chicago River during the tenure of Mayor Rahm Emanuel. During his administration he has completed a stretch of the Chicago Riverwalk and is now seeing projects like the Apple Michigan Avenue and the relocation of the Chicago Architecture Foundation directly across the river from Apple.

Apple Michigan Avenue is located at the south edge of Pioneer Court, a large plaza next to the iconic Chicago Tribune Tower. Norman Foster's design for the Apple store steps down from one story at the plaza to the equivalent of three stories adjacent to the riverwalk. Stairs both inside and outside of the building's glass walls connect the plaza and riverwalk levels. Tiered seating at the upper level works toward the intention of the store becoming "a gathering place for the local community" and facilitating "year-round Today at Apple programming."

Like Foster's design of Apple Campus 2 and other flagship stores he has designed for the company, Apple Michigan Avenue is a tour-de-force of lightness and transparency. The clear glass walls are laminated to provide some structural support (similar to his smaller Norman Foster Foundation in Madrid) for the ultra-thin carbon-fiber roof, which is held up primarily by four columns. From above, the roof resembles a MacBook; the effect would have been more pronounced, but Apple decided to remove its logo from the roof after installing a mockup last month. The logo was relocated to one of the slab-like stone columns, but with Apple's signature design-sense permeating the building, a logo is hardly necessary.

The new store seen from the Chicago River
Interior of new Apple Michigan Avenue

Screenshot from Apple video showing roof of the new store

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