“Dream bigger,” Steve Jobs told a Disney executive as they discussed plans to reinvent the media company’s retail outlets. He insisted Disney develop a prototype store, much as Apple did before it launched its first brick-and-mortar outlet at Tysons Corner, Virgina, in May 2001. As the majority shareholder it’s in his best interest, of course, for Disney to be successful, but you have to imagine he’d offer the same advice to anyone.
Well, it has been almost nine years since Apple got into the retail store game and with Microsoft blatantly copying Apple with their recent move into retail, it’s time for a change. As last week drew to a close, clues emerged suggesting Apple is looking to reinvent its retail store design, and once again it’s developing a prototype. This time, however, it’s not tucked away in an aircraft hangar at Area 51, but can be found at 340 University Ave, Palo Alto.
On Friday SiliconValley.com reported:
[Apple] will build an Apple Store that project developers referred to in planning documents as “a new prototype for the company.” The facade will be entirely transparent at ground level, vast skylights will flood the store with natural light, and trees will grow inside, fed by the sunlight from above.
It sounds so beautiful. Quite unlike the building that currently stands at 340 University Avenue;
According to the report the architectural review board voted unanimously to approve the plans which, although referred to as a “renovation,” include completely demolishing the facade and roof of the building. It seems the structure has been altered so many times in recent years it doesn’t qualify for historic protection.
The plans credit architectural firm Bohlin Cywinski Jackson — the same firm behind Apple’s iconic Fifth Avenue store in New York, whose entrance resembles a giant transparent-cube. SiliconValley.com’s Will Oremus says several sources have told him Apple is behind the project, while Alexander Lew, chair of the arhitectural review board, said:
Apple is pretty secretive… But at the same time, when you look at it, the design is pretty unique. …I think a lot of people have kind of guessed.
The whole design is inside-outside, with everything completely exposed. With the huge skylight, there’s going to be lots of daylight and it will feel more like an atrium inside. … We’re excited about the project.
Naturally, Apple declined to comment on the plans. Shocker, eh? Thankfully, the proposal includes some tantalising descriptive prose detailing the vision for the new store, the beginning of which should sound familiar to anyone who has ever visited an Apple store.
The proposed store is a new prototype for the applicant. Fully half the function of the store serves to provide education and service to business as well as customer patrons in addition to product sales. The store is a commons for the applicant’s community to gather.
[The all-glass store front] dissolves the boundary that traditional store facades create. By not breaking the horizontal ground plane of the sidewalk with opaque wall or landscape element, for example, the street is made part of the store’s interior; the pedestrian is in the store before entering it.
Of course, we don’t know absolutely for sure if Apple is responsible; I suppose this could be Microsoft’s doing. And while we’re at it, Apple’s much-rumoured-tablet might run Windows 7 and feature a hardware keyboard and built-in fax machine.
I’m trying to imagine what makes this “prototype” so special and new. Aside from the interesting aesthetics (Apple does like its glass-walled cathedrals) what will make this store different?
Are we talking the tried-and-trusted Scandinavian furniture we see today in all other Apple stores, or will we be treated to a complete overhaul? Touch-enabled surfaces everywhere? More room dedicated to iPods and iPhones? A new Tablet Bar?
I’m holding out for a luxurious coffee bar in every Apple Store 2.0. If it did that, I could practically live in my local Apple Store. What would you change in yours? Share your ideas, and coffee-cravings, in the comments below.