Just over four years ago, Apple began rolling out a new generation of retail stores across the world. The idea was straightforward but challenging: Apple Stores should be spaces conducive to creative experiences — spaces for communities to gather. Over 200 redesigned stores later, Apple has learned how to express its values through architecture. Each new space builds on the last with refined ideas, designs, materials, and fixtures.

This is part two of a three-part series documenting Apple retail in 2019. In this section, we’ll study Apple’s latest architecture and in-store designs.

For in-depth looks at Apple Store initiatives and Today at Apple over the past year, visit parts one and three. For further background, check out last year’s field guide to Apple retail in 2018 or browse Department Map, a glossary designed to help you learn more about Apple Stores.

Apple Store Avenue Display

Between added locations and existing stores that were rebuilt, Apple completed 23 entirely new store spaces in 2019. Many of these projects introduce striking new designs, classic ideas reinterpreted in new ways, and clever solutions to challenging design problems.

You’re probably aware that many of Apple’s recent and most significant store projects are a collaboration with Foster + Partners, the team of architects that worked on Apple Park. But store projects often involve hundreds of other architects, engineers, designers, and suppliers, frequently at a local level. Though not typically mentioned by name, these talented teams play key roles in bringing a store to life. Here are some highlights from the past year.

Apple Carnegie Library Facade

Apple Carnegie Library

Presented with the opportunity to preserve a cultural gem in Washington, D.C., Apple left no detail to chance. Tim Cook called Apple Carnegie Library Apple’s “most historic, ambitious restoration by far, in the world.”

Beyer Blinder Belle Architects worked with Apple on a preservation strategy, and Evergreene Architectural Arts treated the building’s exterior to stabilize decaying marble details. Care was taken to keep the facade as close to its original appearance as possible.

Apple Carnegie Library Entrance Detail

Apple Carnegie Library Logo

Sculpted pilasters beyond repair were replicated and will acquire a matching patina over time. The two glowing Apple logos on the south facade were cut into new slabs of marble that have been placed over the originals so as to not damage the building. Original wood windows were reglazed rather than replaced.

Guastavino tile

In the basement, a restored Guastavino ceiling is the highlight of the Carnegie Gallery, a space to learn about the library’s history. Guastavino tile is a type of ribbed structural tile used in the construction of vaulted ceilings. Upstairs, the store’s new Forum is the first with a video wall trimmed in bronze to match the door hardware and railings present throughout the structure.

Carnegie Library Stack Room

Freestanding Avenue

Carnegie Library Ventilation

Apple had to get creative to implement its store design elements in a way that was respectful of the library’s history. The original stack room uses columns of white Vermont Marble to reference the towering book stacks that once filled the room. Unique fixtures were designed to bring Avenue display shelving out of the walls and into the center of each reading room. The original design of bookcases along the walls was reinterpreted as a clever solution to hide the store’s ventilation system.

Carnegie Library Experience Room

Apple Carnegie Library was also the second Apple Store in the world and first in the United States with an Experience Room, a place to try products like HomePod and Apple TV in a more relaxed environment. Each store with an Experience Room is designed with a totally unique layout and style.

Read more: Apple Carnegie Library: An inside look at Apple’s most ambitious store yet

Apple Xinyi A13 Exterior

Photo courtesy of Storeteller

Apple Xinyi A13

Apple’s New Store Design aesthetic has been rooted in the styling of Apple Park since the beginning, but nothing better expresses the look than a transparent pavilion design. Taiwan’s Apple Xinyi A13 blends ideas from Apple Park Visitor Center with local landscaping and a second level underground.

It’s not often that a customer’s first impression of an Apple Store is from the air, but that’s exactly what happens in Taipei. Visitors to Taipei 101’s Observatory can spot the carbon fiber reinforced roof from 89 floors up, so Apple outlined its logo on top.

Apple Xinyi A13 Roof

Photo courtesy of Tony Chen

Surrounding the pavilion are carved blocks of basalt and camphor trees. The plaza landscaping is inspired by the geography of Taiwan and includes a misting water feature for hot days.

Apple Xinyi A13 Plaza

Sculptural Staircase

Photos courtesy of Storeteller

The earthquake-resistant pavilion is wrapped by curved panes of glass and features two marble composite sculptural staircases that descend to the Forum below. Xinyi A13 is the first location outside of Apple Park to use the freestanding staircase design.

Read more: Apple Xinyi A13 brings a taste of Apple Park to Taipei

Apple Bondi Forum

Photo courtesy of Matthew Tsang

Apple Bondi

Apple Bondi isn’t brand new — the store first opened in 2010 — but it received a big upgrade in 2019. Apple closed the store in late March for a three-month renovation as part of its store upgrade program to expand the reach of Today at Apple.

When the store reopened, it brought much more than a video wall. A vertical garden of 7,000 plants carpets two sides of the Forum, stretching more than 30 feet from the floor to the skylight above. A custom irrigation system waters the green walls, and plants have been arranged by sunlight priority.

Apple Bondi Green Wall

Photo courtesy of Campbell Hor

Bondi’s green walls are the largest ever built inside of an Apple Store, closer in stature to the plaza green wall at Apple Union Square than the green Avenue seating Apple often includes at larger stores. The unique design replaced a set of interior trees which were the first ever used in an Apple Store.

Read more: Bondi Apple Store upgrade features floor-to-ceiling green walls

Apple Jewel Changi Airport

Photo courtesy of Storeteller

Apple Jewel Changi Airport

Apple Jewel Changi Airport is the first Apple Store in an airport and one of only a few enclosed within a shopping center that spans two floors.

The storefronts at Jewel Changi Airport curve in a circle around a central rain vortex. The width of Apple’s space required a custom facade solution. Panes of double-height curved glass wrap the front of the store until they meet composite marble panels cut with a backlit Apple logo. Structural columns are pushed back behind the glass, resulting in a sweeping, unbroken facade.

Apple Jewel Changi Airport Curved Glass

Apple Jewel Changi Airport Sculptural Staircase

Photos courtesy of Storeteller

Tucked away outside of the main sales area, Apple brought its famous recessed handrails to the staircase connecting both floors of the store. A similar spiral version of the design is used at Singapore’s first Apple Store, Orchard Road.

Read more: Sweeping glass facade of Apple Jewel Changi Airport unveiled in Singapore

Apple Aventura

Apple Aventura

Apple Aventura’s transformation from an outgrown indoor mall store to a state of the art gem among the leagues of flagship stores in Chicago and San Francisco is perhaps Apple’s most surprising project of 2019.

Nearly every detail inside and out was created uniquely for Aventura by Foster + Partners and ODP Architecture and Design, starting with the store’s sculpted white concrete roof, a nod to Miami Modernism. Each vault was precast and transported to the site, where the completed roof acts as a sustainable system to harvest rainwater.

Apple Aventura Roof Vaults

Most major Apple Stores are designed with local culture and environment in mind, but Apple Aventura pushes the limits. Eckersley O’Callaghan Engineers designed a triple-height glass facade that passed missile testing to ensure that the store can stand up to Florida’s hurricane season.

Apple Aventura Plaza

Apple Aventura Grove

The flow of the store follows one sweeping line from an outdoor plaza landscaped with local plants and trees to the indoor Genius Grove, where trees continue and are planted right into the floor. Since 2018’s Apple Scottsdale Fashion Square, Apple has iterated on its design for planting trees indoors with sculpted terrazzo access panels.

Apple Store Indoor Trees

Left: Apple Scottsdale Fashion Square (2018) Right: Apple Aventura (2019)

Apple Aventura Forum

Apple Aventura Terrazzo Bench

A tiered amphitheater connects the store’s first and second floors to define a Forum composed entirely of terrazzo benches topped with leather seats. Apple Aventura is the first store in the world to include a Forum without wood and leather cubes for seating. Today at Apple-first architecture continues to command more attention and influence over store design.

Read more: The all-new Apple Aventura: A tropical Apple Store inspired by the coast

Apple Rennweg Facade

Photo courtesy of Timothy

Apple Rennweg

Apple’s latest store in Zurich wasn’t a historic restoration project, but it is housed in a historic building on Rennweg, an ancient passageway through the city. The storefront was last an Audi e-tron pop-up gallery, giving Apple a blank slate interior to work with.

On the outside, Apple has retained the charm of the narrow red brick and cream stucco spaces it occupies. Inside, customers familiar with Apple Store design will notice an exceptionally uncommon assortment of fixtures and finishes.

Apple Rennweg Ground Floor

Apple Rennweg blends New Store Design elements like Avenue shelving with classic store elements like previous-generation display tables and a tiled ceiling. The space is bright and cheery with a skylight on the second floor, but not large enough for a Forum or video wall, critical elements of the full Today at Apple experience.

Apple Rennweg Upper Floor

Photos courtesy of Lars Augustin

The discrepancies are noteworthy in particular because the store is likely intended to be temporary rather than a long-term replacement to the now-shuttered Apple Bahnhofstrasse nearby. Given the circumstances, it’s admirable how much effort Apple put into creating a store that feels one with the rest of the fleet. Apple is no stranger to temporary stores, but Rennweg might be the most polished yet.

Read more: Apple Rennweg opens to replace Bahnhofstrasse store in Zurich

Apple Marunouchi

Photo courtesy of Daiki Shimizu

Apple Marunouchi

The gridded structure of Tokyo’s Mitsubishi Building afforded Apple and Foster + Partners the chance to try a new design for Apple Marunouchi at its base.

Inside and out, the store references a structural grid. Outside, the design is expressed through two-story vitrine windows, extruded from the face of the building in cast aluminum. The vitrines create narrow passages between both floors of the store, where custom planters are filled with bamboo that partially obscures the windows and calms the busy street. Apple Marunouchi was the second Apple Store in the world to use bamboo, following 2018’s Apple Cotai Central.

Marunouchi Bamboo

Photo via Foster + Partners

Marunouchi Vitrine

Photo via Apple

Apple Marunouchi Staircase

Photo courtesy of Yota Suzuki

White plaster partitions repeat across both levels of the interior to define the Forum and Genius areas. Wood plank ceilings, introduced in 2017 and now found in many new stores, add a splash of color. A first-of-its-kind sculptural staircase omits carved handrails for painted aluminum and terrazzo treads.

Read more: Grand opening: Apple Marunouchi arrives at Tokyo Station

Apple Oxmoor

Photo courtesy of Jordan Clemons

Apple Oxmoor

Like Apple Aventura, Apple Oxmoor transformed from expected to exceptional. The new space reimagined a vacant loading zone by carving a green plaza into the mall. For the first time, an exterior entrance brings natural light into the store and improves customer flow into the mall.

Apple Oxmoor Green Wall

Photo courtesy of Jordan Clemons

Two towering green walls absorb sound on the plaza and contrast against the parking lot that lies beyond. Trees and patio furniture line the store’s approach. Totally new for any Apple store is a facade composed entirely of mirrored stainless steel. The polished panels reflect the sky and greenery, creating an optical illusion that dissolves the store’s facade and makes the plaza feel more open. An Apple logo cut in the center almost appears to float in the sky.

Stainless Steel Facade

Photo courtesy of Zach Gilmore

Over the past few years, mirrored stainless steel has enjoyed increasing popularity in major store projects. First used on logos and trim, the material later became Apple’s choice to reduce the visual weight of freestanding video walls like those found at Apple Aventura, Apple Michigan Avenue, and several other recent store upgrades.

Read more: New Apple Stores open in Louisville and The Woodlands: green walls, mirrored facade, more

Apple Fifth Avenue

Apple Fifth Avenue

The Apple Fifth Avenue glass cube was already one of New York City’s modern icons, but Apple decided to go a little further when it rebuilt the store underneath. The original cube was a joint effort with architects Bohlin Cywinski Jackson. Foster + Partners was enlisted to help reimagine the new store.

Apple Fifth Avenue Skylense

Skylense LED Ring

An innovative new plaza design is as much about what you see from underground as above. “Skylenses” act not only as functional sculptures surrounding the cube but light wells for the store below. Each portal is bridged by curved fabric and outlined by an LED ring light that slowly adjusts to the changing color temperature of daylight.

Apple Fifth Avenue Side Entrance

Apple Fifth Avenue Elevator

Apple Fifth Avenue Cantilevered Stairs

Two new entrances to the store help manage customer flow, while the focal point for visitors remains a grand spiral staircase twisting up to the cube above. The Seele group engineered the geometry of a new mirrored stainless steel drum and cantilevered stair tread design meant to appear effortless and mesmerizing.

Apple Fifth Avenue Experience Room

Apple Music Avenue

Apple Fifth Avenue Boardroom

The new Apple Fifth Avenue also includes an Experience Room, this time arranged to exclusively showcase HomePod audio quality. It’s the first Apple Store in the world to include two private Boardrooms for business meetings and Today at Apple session hosts. The store also introduced several one-of-a-kind Avenue displays, including a musical AirPods installation and a special storage system of wood trays for Apple Watch bands.

Read more: Inside Apple Fifth Avenue: An all-new space with a familiar face

Read more: A comprehensive guide to the modern furnishings of Apple Store Boardrooms

Apple Antara

Photo courtesy of Marco Aboytes

Apple Antara

For its second store in Mexico, Apple branched out with a pavilion design surrounded by gardens and trees. The concept feels inspired by Apple Xinyi A13 but is wholly unique with regional plant life and an open-air store layout suited to Mexico City’s climate.

Apple Antara Trees

Sliding Glass Doors

Photos courtesy of Marco Aboytes

Beyond the gardens, the signature feature of Apple Antara is a set of 23-foot sliding glass doors that dissolve the entire facade of the store. It’s the first time doors of this style have been used at an Apple Store since San Francisco’s Union Square in 2016.

Read more: Grand opening: Exploring the gardens of Mexico City’s Apple Antara

Apple Fukuoka

Photo courtesy of Daiki Shimizu

Apple Fukuoka

From the outside, the new Apple Fukuoka resembles a wider, angled version of South Korea’s first Apple Store, Garosugil. Both stores are rooted in the same ideas, but Fukuoka’s has several features uniquely Japan.

Shoji Screen

Photo via Apple

Spanning the entire width of the store’s back wall is a diffusing layer known as a shoji screen. The traditional Japanese interior design staple was reinterpreted in a modern context for Apple Fukuoka to allow more light to enter the store. The screen’s design differs from the classic shoji dividers used at Apple Kyoto.

Bamboo Passage

Photo courtesy of Daiki Shimizu

Below the screen is Apple Fukuoka’s second unique design: a mirrored stainless steel passageway with windows that overlook a bamboo garden. Benches alongside the video wall provide a place to sit and observe. The garden view carries into the store’s Boardroom.

Apple Fukuoka Boardroom

Photo via Apple

The new Apple Fukuoka replaced a classic store within walking distance that was the last in the world to feature The Studio, a space similar to the Genius Bar that originally functioned as a creative help desk. The concept was later phased out and reborn as Today at Apple’s Studio Hour session.

Read more: All-new Apple Fukuoka opens with Japanese shoji screen and bamboo garden

Continue with more from this series on Apple Retail in 2019:

If you attend a store opening, spot something interesting, or try a great Today at Apple session, we’d love to see and share your photos. Follow our retail guide for in-depth coverage of the latest Apple Store news.

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About the Author

Michael Steeber

Michael is a Creative Editor who covered Apple Retail and design on 9to5Mac. His stories highlighted the work of talented artists, designers, and customers through a unique lens of architecture, creativity, and community.

Contact Michael on Twitter to share Apple Retail, design, and history stories: @MichaelSteeber