Plans to replace the existing Palo Alto (N. Calif.) retail store with a larger and more impressive design are once again alive, after Apple has received approval to completely demolish and rebuild an existing building two blocks away, instead of simply renovating and upgrading it. The revised proposal for a 16,600 square-foot store at 340 University Avenue will now feature an arched, all-glass roof set on stone walls over the front two-thirds of the store, mimicking the architecture of the Upper West Side (NYC) store, and making the store “a commons for the…community to gather.” The company first submitted plans to city building officials in late 2009, proposing to remove major portions of the building, and then renovate and upgrade other portions. However, after receiving city approval for the project in January 2010, Apple’s engineers discovered structural problems with the building and recommended that it be completely demolished and re-built. The proposed store is about two blocks west of the current store, and will include a basement, ground-floor retail space with storage and offices behind, and a partial second-level also with storage and offices. The new location could open in early 2012.
After obtaining city building permits last year, structural engineers more closely examined the existing building and discovered that three walls were made of hollow clay tile. The engineers also found concrete columns without proper support and that were under-reinforced. Both issues raised questions of structural integrity during an seismic event, of which there are many in the region. According to the city staff report, “The building would not specifically be required to be demolished, but demolition and reconstruction to current codes would be the preferred action.”
In supporting documents to the city’s staff and Architectural Review Board (ARB), Apple architects Bohlin Cywinski Jackson (BCJ) described the store in lofty terms as a “commons concept” that provides “programmed activities and services in addition to sales functions.” According to BCJ, “These functions will establish the store as not just a place to purchase goods, but as a resource to the applicant’s larger community.” Download (pdf) the full city staff report on the project that describes the building.
The commons concept is conceived of as “an extension of the street, utilizes tables, wall displays, furniture and other hand held objects that are scaled specifically and uniquely for human interaction,” BCJ wrote. “Although ‘interior’, these elements are experienced directly by the passersby on the City’s sidewalk, and connect the passersby to the activity of the interior environment with an immediacy that cannot be achieved through the use of more traditional store front designs.”
“The street is made part of the store’s interior; the pedestrian is in the store before entering it,” BCJ stated.
Apple’s previous store design proposal included a tall roof over the retail space, highlighted by several skylights. The current design completely replaces the roof with a “gently arching glass roof” that would resemble the design of the Upper West Side (NYC) store. The top of the roof would be 24-½ feet tall, 18 inches taller than the existing building design. The 10-foot tall double entrance doors would be recessed, and underneath a glass canopy. The previous storefront was to be all-glass, without any stainless steel or stone.
According to a description of the new design submitted by BCJ, “The new glass façade and roof creates an inviting day-lit interior that is designed to dissolve the boundary between exterior and interior to connect the activity on the street and within the store.” The design, “visually continues the axis of Florence Street that is perpendicular to University Avenue and that terminates at the storefront of 340 University Avenue, along which the street trees are interrupted.”
The store design will use of low-iron, laminated glass to “reinforce the flow between inside and out.” Overhead, BCJ says, “The gently arching glass roof supported by delicate steel. trusses span across the space between massive stone walls. It is a calm monumental grand hall presented to the street and open to the changing sky, allowing light and shadow to dance throughout.”
The architects say the interior design features “a palette of elegant materials with clean, refined detailing. It is simple and modern: the interior and exterior walls are clad in a warm grey stone, floors are covered with cool, light-hued limestone tiles.” The now-standard custom maple furniture provides “complementary warmth to the otherwise cool palette of materials.”
BCJ says, “The pure volume and crisp details belie the complexities of the mechanical systems and superstructure seamlessly integrated within the building. Maintaining an efficient and pleasant climate, conditioned air is distributed via perforated stone floor tiles and under-counter, stainless steel wall panels. Overhead, painted steel trusses and purlins are configured to capture inconspicuous sprinkler lines and light fixtures while supporting a monolithic glass roof.”
In summary, the architects say, “The goal is to create a total experience where distracting elements have been edited out of the visual field. In this serene yet stimulating environment, the retail products gracefully assume center stage as an integral part of the streetscape of the lively pedestrian experience of Palo Alto’s University Avenue commercial corridor.”
Read the original January 2010 IFO news story reporting this new location.E-mail this story