The latest Apple Store to open in New York City -- the Upper East Side location, the seventh in greater NYC -- is somewhat hard to spot, particularly compared to some other area Apple stores, such as the iconic glass cube that marks the entrance to the Fifth Avenue store. The Upper East Side store, inside the Beaux Arts building from the 1920s that used to house US Mortgage and Trust bank, has no outward appearance of its current function, save for a small black flag with the Apple logo on the outside.
Inside as well, the company spent serious money recreating the look and feel of its predecessor: the entrance and floors are Botticino marble, the original grand metal chandeliers have been re-created from old photographs of the bank, and the vault area has been preserved as a VIP showroom and meeting room. Like the store built into Grand Central Station, Apple has chosen a policy that allows many standalone stores to adapt to the style of the surroundings, rather than going for a uniform corporate look.
Upper East Side story in NYC
While Apple does have "generic" stores, these are mostly confined to malls and similar open-air shopping centers. When stores are part of an upscale or historic neighborhood, however, the company likes to take the opportunity to find ways to use the existing space and reflect the heritage of both the building and the area, Apple Retail head Dame Angela Ahrendts said recently.
"It's no different than every customer downloads different apps and customizes their phones differently," she told the Associated Press. Such efforts, while expensive, pay off in generating "a level of excitement, engagement and interest from consumers," said Michael Stephenson, associate strategy director at branding and design consultancy Fitch.
Iconic Fifth Avenue Apple Store, NYC
In addition to opening some new stores in the US, Apple will be renovating some 20 stores because they have outgrown their space or for other reasons. One of them is the famous Fifth Avenue store, which will move temporarily to a nearby location. When renovating stores to be larger or moving into new locations, the company is using the disruption to re-think the look and layouts of the stores with more consideration for space, for giving such stores their own look, and for environmental and energy-saving considerations.
While most of the "blended in" stores are to be found in Europe, Apple has a number of them in the US as well. In addition to Grand Central Station, Apple worked diligently to incorporate local artwork and building design into its new two-story store in San Francisco's Union Square neighborhood.
Rendering of under-construction Union Square store in SF
Outside the US, zoning laws and planning commissions often require that retail stores adhere to the established or historical look and feel of a given area, but Apple is well-known for going beyond the requirements and preserving or restoring buildings it occupies, blending its high technology and modern retail environment into the architecture of its locations. Flagship stores in Paris, Brisbane, and Covent Garden all work within the confines of limited outside modifications to exist in harmony with its surroundings, while still offering the expansive, open feeling of its store interiors.
Grand Central Station store, NYC
The company also occasionally gets the chance to do something completely different. It's stores in Istanbul and Shanghai -- the former a sleek modern glass-and-steel entryway to an underground store, the latter a glass column based on but distinct from the Fifth Avenue cube -- are examples of fresh designs that aren't bound by tradition or history. Its crowning achievement in terms of original design, however, is only just underway -- the curved-glass and steel frame Campus 2 "spaceship" building, currently under construction.