Apple opened its most ambitious store in Chicago last Friday, creating a new connection between North Michigan Avenue, Pioneer Court and the Chicago River.
The company is looking to make its stores “town halls” and this is the first implementation of that concept. Intended as a gathering place for the local community, the store will host year-round Today at Apple programming, building on Chicago’s city-wide initiative to enliven the Riverwalk. To celebrate the opening, Apple Michigan Avenue is hosting “The Chicago Series,” a month-long set of events that will provide attendees with the tools to pursue their passions, from photography and music to coding and app design.
Apple’s first location on North Michigan Avenue welcomed more than 23 million visitors since opening in 2003, and the number of employees has grown from 58 to 250 today. Across the Chicagoland area, Apple’s nine stores are home to 1,300 employees including new Creative Pros, the liberal arts equivalent of Apple’s technical Geniuses, who deliver free daily Today at Apple sessions.
“When Apple opened on North Michigan Avenue in 2003, it was our first flagship store, and now we are back in Chicago opening the first in a new generation of Apple’s most significant worldwide retail locations,” said Angela Ahrendts, Apple’s senior vice president of Retail. “Apple Michigan Avenue exemplifies our new vision where everyone is welcome to experience all of our incredible products, services and inspiring educational programs in the heart of their city.”
Chicago’s connection to its river runs deep and Apple Michigan Avenue adds new access to the riverfront from Pioneer Court. The two are now linked by granite staircases on both sides of the transparent store, opening up views from the plaza to the river and beyond. Apple worked closely with the City of Chicago and referenced historical records to develop a store design specifically for the site on which it sits.
“Apple Michigan Avenue is about removing boundaries between inside and outside, reviving important urban connections within the city,” said Jony Ive, Apple’s chief design officer. “It unites a historic city plaza that had been cut off from the water, giving Chicago a dynamic new arena that flows effortlessly down to the river.”
Every design feature serves to minimize the boundary between the city and the Chicago River. Even the building’s 111-by-98 foot carbon-fiber roof was designed to be as thin as possible, and the entire structure is supported by four interior pillars that allow the 32-foot glass facades to remain unobscured.