Foster + Partners transforms historic Rome building into Apple Store
Foster + Partners' latest project sees the high-profile British firm reprise its winning partnership with Apple to design a flagship Apple Store in Rome. The project modernizes the 19th century Palazzo Marignoli building while taking care to retain its character with the restoration of original artwork found inside.
The recently opened Apple Via Del Corso, to give the store its official name, is located on the Via del Corso, a busy street in Rome. The site once hosted a 16th century convent, but the building that stands today was designed much later – in 1870 – by renowned architect Salvatore Bianchi, with Giulio Podesti later adding its eye-catching facade. For a while it was an influential cafe hosting journalists and political figures.
If you've ever set foot in an Apple Store, you already have a good idea of the decor, with a focus on wooden display tables showing off the tech giant's wares, and areas for so-called Genius Bar customer support, as well as events. However, Foster + Partners also went to great lengths to highlight the existing architecture and features, including a tree-filled central courtyard that's actually a remnant of the 16th century convent.
Inside the store proper, there's a grand staircase and superb marble detailing. Original lanterns were restored and fitted with LEDs that are meant to mimic candlelight, and an old skylight was uncovered to increase natural light inside. Two 19th century paintings were also restored by specialists over thousands of hours, as was an elaborate hand-painted geometric pattern ceiling.
"On the ground floor two large ceiling paintings called 'Dawn' and 'Dusk,' by Fabio Cipolla and Ettore Ballerini respectively, have been carefully restored and integrated within the new store," explains Foster + Partners. "One of the most exciting finds were the multiple graffiti panels created by the artist, Afro Basaldella – a contemporary of Picasso and one of Italy's most important artists – depicting urban scenes from Italian cities.
"The facade towards Via del Corso has also been carefully restored, its large windows allowing views into the store and towards a beautiful internal courtyard. Entry to the store is through a historic passage that leads to the courtyard flanked by two generous and striking spaces that celebrate the grandeur of the historic palazzo."
Foster + Partners has long been the architect of choice for Apple, and the collaboration has resulted in some superb and varied store designs over the years, such as the Cotai Central and Apple Marina Bay Sands.