Apple is known for pushing the boundaries of architecture with its iconic stores, such as the 5th Avenue glass cube store in New York or the cylindrical glass tower in Shanghai. But the newest Apple Store on the block may top them all. It's deceptively simple-looking, but don't be fooled.
Located in Hangzhou, China is this tall, square, box-shaped store that features stainless steel walls on three sides and fifty-foot glass window panes in front (eleven of them, to be exact). It's predictably minimalistic, yet sleek, evocative of Apple's products.
The 50-foot windows alone are impressive, out-classing the cube's window panes, which are just thirty-two feet tall. But what really makes it special is inside.
Architecture firm Foster + Partners, which has designed most of Apple's stores from the last five years, as well as the massive "mothership" campus currently under construction in Cupertino, came up with a design for this one that breaks all the rules. It's a two-story building, but that second floor is floating over the first.
It's connected to the rest of the building on just one side -- along the back. The other three sides jut out over the first floor, with no other supports visible. It even encloses paneled lighting on the underside to shine down on the first floor. And like Apple's products, that second floor is incredibly thin.
How is this marvel of engineering achieved? Foster + Partners isn't saying, but according to Wired, there are dampers installed beneath the ground to keep that second floor from shaking of swaying as customers move about. It's a technology that was invented to keep skyscrapers level in the event of an earthquake, but this may be its first implementation in a ground-level retail space.
Look at that picture again. Notice anything else missing? It's tall, it's wide, it's deep... And there are no pillars supporting its ceiling. Despite its fifty-foot height, Foster + Partners found a way to engineer its roof so that it can be supported without columns.
Also impressive are the dual staircases on either side of the structure. Like the rest of the building, they look starkly minimal, but there's a lot more going on there than you may think.
Check out the back of the stairs.
That's right: there are no supports holding up the glass steps. Just like the second floor, the steps seem to float, sticking out from the wall with nothing underneath to hold them up. Foster + Partners achieved this by having special bolts custom-made and then embedded inside the steps. The bolts are so perfectly crafted to work in conjunction with the steps, you can't see them at all.
Regardless of whether you love Apple or loathe it, you can't deny that along with Foster + Partners, they're doing some astounding work in architecture and structural engineering.