Apple of Concord
Finally, after at least a year and half, Apple's new flagship store opened tonight at 5PM, with Apple CEO Tim Cook on the premises. The hordes were out there, worshipping the glass monolith just as the apes worshipped the black monolith in Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. From the monolith comes knowledge.
With the hordes came bomb sniffing dogs, members of the Chicago Police Department, special forces toting automatic weapons, concrete barriers, police mobile command units, and plenty of navy blue-shirted security personnel. Despite that dismal reminder of the state of the world, the crowd was festive, particularly the store's employees, who could be seen standing in circles jumping up and down at they waved and clapped their hands in the air. Apple's version of a drum circle.
Chicago Tribune architectural critic Blair Kamin, who is a hard-ass when it comes to critiques, has written several articles about the building, with the last one being a very positive review. According to Kamin, nothing innovative or radical, but nevertheless, an "understated gem," particularly given its perch on the river. More poetically, Kamin refers to the building as "an architecture of 'almost nothing,'" which realizes the vision of Chicago architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. It should, given its $27 million cost. No wonder the new iPhone X comes in at close to $1,000. Assuming a margin of 50%, Apple must sell 54,000 of those devices to pay for the store.
For those who have visited the old (as of today) Michigan Avenue Apple store, or the one across from the Plaza Hotel on New York City's Fifth Avenue, the new store offers quite a contrast. It is all open space. As you stand in Pioneer Court, looking down, you see stairs, glass, and beautiful limestone-like floors, but not much of anything else. The sales floor is set back under the bridge-like tier connecting the two internal staircases. To the right of the store is an inviting terrace comprised of stairs, with newly-planted trees marking the way to the river. People were already lounging on the stairs. Hopefully Apple will use this space for outdoor concerts and lectures. Notably, the stairs comprising the terrace flow seamlessly through the glass partitions that create the interior/exterior space distinction.
The structure was designed by Foster + Partners, the London-based architectural powerhouse that designed Apple's new Cupertino headquarters, as well at London's "Gherkin."
The celebration continues tomorrow, with musical acts on an all black stage bearing the familiar Apple logo. When I walked across the Michigan Avenue bridge's lower level to reach the store, I noticed a huge amount of audio equipment lining the concrete pads adjacent to walls. Apple certainly didn't need that much equipment to amplify the speeches today. My bet is that Pink will be performing tomorrow. I have no inside information, but I did notice Pink prominently displayed in bus shelter ads for iTunes.
Photographer's Notes: I initially planned on bringing my tech camera, but decided that the size of the crowds made that impractical, so I used with my Fuji 50s GFX. The shot from across the river be much improved when I use a 72mm lens with my tech camera. The bushes make it impossible to position a tripod directly on the structure's center, but I can fix that by shifting the sensor plane relative to the lens. It is also useful to keep Jeff Wall in mind. The perfect photograph will balance the indoor and outdoor light so that both require the same exposure. I think I may need to wait until next summer to make that photograph.
Most of the photographs were made using a shutter speed from between 5 and 14 seconds. I noticed one thing when I enlarged the photographs. The people who are not blurs are either looking at their iPhones or making out.