Fifth Avenue Glass Cube Suffers Broken Panel

January 22, 2014

In the midst of an epic American winter and as snow swirled around the Fifth Avenue (NYC) Apple store glass cube, passersby noticed that one of the tall and usually transparent glass panels was crazed, apparently damaged by a snowblower that roamed too close. The 32-foot tall glass panel has an internal plastic lamination layer, so the glass stayed in place, and no one was injured. Within minutes workers put up stanchions to block off the rear-right panel. The cube was installed in 2005-2006 using glass manufactured in Germany by Seele GmbH & Co. It reportedly cost $7 million to create and install. At the time, the cube represented the upper size limit of laminated glass technology, so each side of the cube was composed of six panels. In June 2011 the cube was completely disassembled and replaced with one that has wider glass panels made by North Glass Safety Glass Co. (China). At Apple’s direction, the company had pioneered new technology that allowed the lamination of longer and wider glass panels. The new glass was used to construct the 40-foot tall cylindrical glass entrance at the Pudong (Shanghai) store that opened in July 2010. Using wider panels, the new Fifth Avenue cube required just 12 vertical side panels compared to the former cube’s 24 panels. According to city permit documents, the cube replacement construction cost $6.5 million. The cost of the individual glass panels themselves isn’t known. However, a 20-foot tall panel of the same width installed at the Stratford City (UK) store reportedly cost $65,110. It’s likely that Apple has insurance to replace the glass. It’s known that Apple keeps replacement glass panels near its stores that have custom glass windows to allow prompt replacement. Interestingly, the original cube was surrounded by a series of short metal bollards that provided some measure of protection for the glass. The bollards were removed when the cube was disassembled and replaced.

Update: A barricade appeared around the broken panel immediately, and with two weeks scaffolding appeared. In mid-March 2014 more scaffolding appeared, and during a night-time project the broken panel was removed and replaced with a new one.


Steve Jobs walks next to the Fifth Avenue glass cube just before the 2006 grand opening, with principal store architect Peter Bohlin, and then-VP real estate George Blankenship (behind). The protective metal bollards ringed the cube. The current glass cube does not have any bollard protection.

A close-up view of a single metal bollard at the Fifth Avenue store.

Update: By January 30th workers had set up a plywood barricade over the broken glass and scaffolding around it.


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