Apple Store in San Francisco by Foster + Partners

Apple just unveiled its newest retail store in San Francisco, right on Union Square!

And this store’s main purpose isn’t buying but rather representing the brand’s approach to retail and focusing on community and entertainment.

The new flagship store was designed by British architect Norman Foster and has been built to set a precedent for all future Apple stores.

What are the different architectural components that are playing a role in that mission?



  • The materiality of the store:

The store front takes transparency to a whole new level. The two-floor cube blends the outside and the inside by featuring 42-foot tall sliding glass doors to Union Square. This glazed skin allows breaking down barriers and making the entire structure more accessible to the public. The building’s thin skin contrasts with the structure of the building, a striking steel truss system, giving the brand a more imposing look.

  • The creation of a public plaza:

The new Apple project was articulated in a way that its architecture creates a public square, called “The Plaza”, in the rear. This plaza offers public seating and free Wi-Fi along with a major architectural element: a 50-foot green wall, planted with Ficus Repens plants, that gives the space a contemplative relaxing dimension.

  • The design of the display area:

One of the key elements in the store comprises what is called “The Avenue”. This area consists of a display area for accessories that is positioned along the central spine wall of the building. It will allow the brand to have a clear focused zone with better visual merchandising.

  • The implementation of a video wall:

Apple wishes to offer a new learning environment for the public, called “The Forum”. This space occupies a prime location, the center of the cantilevered mezzanine floor, and proposes an educational dimension to the potential clients. It is complemented by a huge 6K-resolution video wall visible from Union Square.

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  • The use of furniture design:

Architecture does not stop at large-scale elements but influences furniture design as well in the new Apple store. Positioned not far from the green wall, tree-filled planters created by Foster+Partners and Apple’s industrial design team, offer seating alternatives in a place where experts meet customers to address tech issues. This space called “The Genius Grove” looks like an extension of the outdoor public plaza and its green wall to the inside of the store.

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  • The introduction of a discrete meeting place:

The green wall also plays the role of hiding a space behind it. Apple decided to introduce the concept of “the Boardroom”, a place for meetings, conversations and possible partnerships. In this area subtly placed behind the green wall, local entrepreneurs and enterprises get together for low-key discussions away from the public.

  • The widespread use of glass:

Besides being the main material of the skin, glass is also widely used on the inside. Apple has always been a pioneer in the use of this material, so it was important to introduce it throughout the interior of the store. The two sculptural staircases on both sides of the store are made of glass threads that are held in place by metal lozenge shaped “pucks” that are embedded in the thread and give the impression of floating glass steps. This complex engineered structure gives an effortless simple look.

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  • The implementation of solar panels:

This new Apple store promotes a better future. Photovoltaic solar panels are integrated in the roof, allowing the building to be powered by 100% renewable energy.

I personally think that the architecture of the San Francisco flagship store allows customers to experience Apple’s products while absorbing the hectic Union square on one side, and relaxing in the new plaza on the other side.

Foster+Partners created an inspiring and stimulating space that declares a shift in retail typology that Apple aims at adopting.

The five new components, “The Plaza”, “The Avenue”, “The Forum”, “The Genius Grove”, “The Boardoom”, create a new identity to the brand and Apple intends of spreading them in their future stores.


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