Apple turns the page with its new San Francisco retail store

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The 40-ft-high (12-m-high) volume is column-free volume and houses a cantilevered mezzanine(Credit: Nigel Young / Foster + Partners)

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Saturday marked the 15th anniversary of Apple opening its first stores and what better way to celebrate than by opening another? The new venue in San Francisco shares the same spacious and open style as those trailblazers, but also has a wealth of high-tech and innovative features.

It is designed by UK architecture firm Foster + Partners, whose recent work has ranged from designing droneports to robot-built 3D-printed shelters for Mars to futuristic fuel stations. Store design is, of course, a little more mundane than all that, but, as you might expect when bringing together two design powerhouses such as Foster and Apple, the result here is anything but.

Located in Union Square, the new venue is aimed at extending the concept of the traditional Apple Store so as to be more community-focused. In this way, it is also intended to act as a model for future Apple Stores around the world.

The building itself is entirely supported by a giant steel truss structure, which in turn supports other trusses that create a tapered opaque-looking ceiling. This opaque look is the result of custom-made lighting panels that are used to illuminate the store at night. The 40-ft-high (12-m-high) volume of the building is column-free and houses a cantilevered mezzanine that appears to float.

Access to the store is afforded through 42-ft-tall (13-m-tall) sliding glass doors, which are aimed in part at helping to ventilate the building naturally. Air is drawn in through them, before flowing through the building and being expelled through the roof, helping to keep the interior fresh and comfortable.

The doors also help link Union Square with a new plaza to the north. The store flows out into the plaza, which has a gathering place and event space with public Wi-Fi. It is designed to be a tranquil area, with a canopy of trees, a 50-ft (15-m) green wall, waterfall and fountain.

Inside the store, there are a number of features new to the Apple Store approach. The Apple retail employees have their own leafy grove of trees that provides a pleasant green space in which to work with customers.

"The Avenue," meanwhile, is a new take on displaying products. It runs along a wall and has interactive "windows" in which items are displayed, inspired by seasonal store-front displays. The displays are attended by staff to provide visitors with information.

As with other Apple Stores, there's a space for learning, presentations and events. "The Forum" has a year-round program catering to everyone from kids to teachers and developers. Its focal point is a 6K video wall, upon which promotional content can be shown, while acting as an animated backdrop for Union Square. There's also a more intimate space where advice and training can be provided to business customers.

The store is fully powered by renewable energy, some of which is produced by the 130 photovoltaic panels that are installed on the building's roof. It opened on Saturday and will be run by a team of 350 staff members, who have moved from Apple's original San Francisco location on Stockton Street that opened in 2004.

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