Just when it seemed that Apple’s retail store architectural playbook had been finalized, the Passeig de Gràcia (Barcelona, Spain) store is revealed to be breaking most of the creative rules. The mosaic barricade was taken down for Thursday’s morning press event, revealing an interior that is a throw-back to stone, stainless steel and glass, without a tinge of the building’s 1890s architecture. It does break significant ground by including three features not seen anywhere else: a set of full-width stone steps just inside the six front entrances, a floating, straight-run glass staircase at the rear of the space clinging to a stone wall, and basement windows that allow passersby to see into the accessories retail space. Perhaps more than the store’s features, the building’s location along busy Passeig de Gràcia and adjacent to Plaza Catalunya bring crowds of curious people and an all-day vitality to the corner. On Thursday passersby were photographing the store, asking questions of the security guards and peering in the 20-foot tall windows. View a gallery of first-day store photos to see the architectural details.
The Catalunya subway station portal is adjcent to Apple’s corner, the airport bus comes and goes within 100 yards of the store, and double-decker tour buses turn the corner right in front of the store. It’s location is marked by a single, medium-sized, back-lit Apple logo hanging over the corner entrance door.
The store brings together the elements of several other stores, including Ginza (Tokyo, centered opening in the ground-level ceiling giving visibility to the second level), Regent Street (London, steel interior inside a vintage building), and the future Yamhill Street (Portland, stone steps).
The ordinary features include bead-blasted stainless steel almost everywhere, gray-color stone floor, white stretched ceiling with the usual embedded mechanical elements (lighting, fire sprinkler, security systems, heating and air conditioning.)
What you haven’t seen before is spectacular. The straight-run glass staircase is supported by the rear stone wall, which matches the light tan of the Americana at Brand (S. Calif.) stone sidewall, and a floor to ceiling collection of glass panels. From the front of the store, the glass wall is nearly invisible making it appears the stair treads have support on just one end.
On that second levels is the Genius Bar, training and set-up areas and other product displays. There is a Briefing Center on the second levels. On the ground level are displays tables showing the complete line of Macintosh products.
Underneath the ascending glass staircase, there is another glass staircase descending into the basement, where small accessories are kept. Back-of-house operations are also in the ground floor area.
Unlike some other stores where structural distractions are engineering out of the design, this store has six support columns on the ground level, all wrapped in bead-blasted, stainless steel panels who proportions mirror those of the building’s windows. The wall-mounted, back-lit display graphics are also proportioned similarly to the 20-foot tall glass windows.
Interestingly, the interior stone steps don’t run parallel with the Passeig de Gràcia side of the building. Instead, the run perpendicular to the Ronda de Sant Pere side. This means visitors entering one of the four side doors or the corner door will take a different numbers of steps to reach the first rise.
By the way there is a sixth public entrance further down Ronda Sant Pere leading to the back of the store and the public elevator.
The upper level is not technically a mezzanine, as it’s too elevated from the ground level and it has a full-height ceiling. The basement, visible through the sidewalk windows, appears to also have a normal-height ceiling.
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