Apple Releases Ultra-Detailed Plans For SF Store

December 5, 2013

As part of a plan to gain city approval for its expanded San Francisco retail store design, Apple’s architects have released a package of renderings, photographs, architectural drawings and descriptions that are unprecedented in their detail. In fact, materials like these and a three-dimensional scale model shown at a city planning meeting yesterday are usually kept under wraps and without Apple’s name on them, available to city commissions and boards, but hidden from the public view until the project is finished. In this case, Apple and its Foster + Partners architects have been forced to go public to gain support for the store project, which faces several obstacles—a bold design that differs from surrounding buildings, a prominent location on the city’s main public square, and early-on objections to the removal of an artistic fountain. The architect’s lobbying efforts have resulted in a 127-page public document (pdf) showing every visual angle of the store during both day and night, dimensions down to fractions of an inch, and photographs of all the materials that will be used in the building. In the past, Apple has notoriously concealed its entré into cities, asking city officials to leave its name off planning documents, and presenting no renderings that would instantly identify the design proposal. For example, when plans for the State Street (Santa Barbara, CA) and Higuera Street (San Luis Obispo, CA) Apple stores were presented to the local planning commissions, it was local Apple resellers who first recognized the store descriptions and tipped off media about Apple’s plans. When the Pioneer Place 2 (Portland, OR) store plan was considered by the city’s Design Commission in a two-hour public meeting just last year, not a single commission member mentioned the word “Apple,” and neither did the two architects from Bohlin Cywinski Jackson who gave a slide presentation and answered questions about the project. And there are several high-profile stores now under construction whose existence Apple’s doesn’t publicly acknowledge. View a gallery of renderings of the new store as prepared by Foster + Partners.

The Foster + Partners materials were attached to a memo from a San Francisco Planning Department staffer to the Historical Planning Commission (HPC), asking commission members for their review and feedback. The staffer described the project as reconfiguring the existing triangular building to an L‐shaped plan, reducing the height of the retail store portion of the building from four to two stories, recladding the exterior with structural glass façades, and recladding the back-of-house space with cast stone panels. The triangular plaza would be reconfigured into a rectangle, the memo notes, with new landscaping, lighting, seating, and paving. Lastly, the fountain designed by noted artist Ruth Asawa would be relocated “slightly,” which is actually 10 feet.

The Planning Department asked the HPC to consider and answer several questions about the store plans related to massing, scale, materials and color, detailing and ornamentation, and the design of the plaza. Foster + Partners provided a substantial write-up defending its design and pointing out how it meets the city’s Standards for Rehabilitation.

For example, in the section on composition and massing, the architects acknowledges that the new design, “differs somewhat from the Conservation District guidelines as it has fully glazed north and south facades that feature full-height vertical glass panels.” But they add that, “The glazing is broken up into smaller sections that relate to the proportions of the other buildings.” In addition, they claim that 18-inch glass fins used for structural support, “establish subtle visual divisions across the all-glass south façade.”

The architects conclude, “There had been an interest when the (surrounding) district was being formed in the 1910s and 1920s in using large single pieces of plate glass, which were exhibited through storefronts and hinged windows on contributing buildings. Technology has advanced, but the desire for transparency has remained.”

In the section on materials and colors, Foster + Partners wrote:

The service building on the west will be clad in stone, which is compatible with the masonry materials suggested for the Conservation District. The glass and metal cladding are not characteristic of the district’s materiality and texture as it stands, but are a contemporary response. The stone, glazing, and metal do appear to constitute “light colors” which would blend with the character of the district.

In another section the firm described the current site and building, and its historical background. The firm then described the proposed Apple store project:

The proposed project is a Significant Flagship retail store of type Vintage C.2 [IFO—The notation "Vintage C.2" part of a method used by the architects to categorize the various store models based on their type and size.]. The store will have two levels of retail sales above grade, and back of house space below grade and in the adjacent low-rise structure. The approximate area of the store is 14,000 square feet of sales area and 10,000 square feet of back of house area. Structural glass facades, and speciality glass stairs are intended to help bring light throughout the sales area while an eight foot overhang creates shade on the southern facade. The main interior and exterior walls are clad with sleek, minimalist, bead blasted stainless steel panels.

Clear span and cantilevered structural systems are used to create column-free areas above grade to facilitate a better shopping environment. The former under utilized triangular plaza area behind the current retail store is reconfigured into a rectangular tree lined plaza more in keeping with the planning geometry of the surrounding area. The new plaza is book-ended by Ruth Asawa’s water fountain and a new water feature at the west end. This new place is intended to be used by both the Hyatt Hotel for special events and also by the general public and patrons of the new proposed retail store.

The detailed plans show the storefront will be very precisely 114 feet, 5-13/16 inches wide. It will be 93 feet, 11-15/16 inches deep. The building will be about 46 feet tall at the front, shorter than the existing building (The sidewalk at the storefront slopes east-to-west, so there is no single, precise height measurement.).

The public plans even include building cornice and entrance door details, plaza lighting plans (including specific photos of fixtures), and plaza furniture (Bertoia Side Chair, which retails for $561 and appears identical to those used at the Lincoln Park (Chicago) store plaza.

The building materials will include terrazzo floors, Indiana limestone, bead-blasted stainless steel, laminated glass, and illuminated ceiling panels. Landscaping will include elevated ground cover and Chinese Elm trees.

The architects also presented a complete plan to move the Ruth Asawa fountain, including photographing it, draining it and disconnecting the pump power, removing the base, and lifting the fountain onto a truck for temporary storage off-site. The process will be reversed when the new fountain location is ready after store construction.

This diagram shows the site plan of the future San Francisco store: yellow is the retail space on two levels, red is the adjacent back-of-house space on three levels, and green is the outdoor public plaza. The arrow points to the front entrance. Click on the image for a larger view.

This rendering shows the brightness of the store at night.

This view shows the public plaza at the rear of the store, with the rear entrance is to the left. In the background is a waterfall over a stone wall. Those chairs cost $561 each.

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