Check out the crazy attention to detail at Apple’s new San Francisco store

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Photo: Leander Kahney/Cult of Mac

SAN FRANCISCO — Look carefully at the cracks in the sidewalk around Apple’s new flagship store in San Francisco. They all line up with architectural elements of the store.

Some are continuous with the metal panels on the exterior walls. Some line up with the windows, and the huge glass panels that make up the 42-foot high front door. Some of the cracks are continuous with the stone floor tiles inside the store.

In turn, the joints in the floor line up with panels on the wall, which line up with the lighting panels on the ceiling.

In fact, most of the lines in the store — the edges of the glass balconies, cutouts in the middle of the tables, the edges of shelves and drawers — all line up with other elements of the store.

Some of these lines run continously from the sidewalk in front of the store all the way through to the tree-lined plaza in the back. It’s a bit crazy, when you examine it, and very, very difficult to pull off.


This kind of attention to detail isn’t uncommon in high-end construction. It’s often found in showpiece architecture like museums and luxury homes. Apple has been making sure the sidewalk cracks line up with other details for years. But it’s very difficult and expensive to pull off.

A construction professional in San Francisco, who insisted on remaining anonymous, said it looks easy on architectural plans but is difficult in practice.

“There’s a million-and-one unknowns that can screw things up,” he said. “Utility lines, pipes and structural elements. There’s all this stuff that comes up in construction that you can’t predict. You can throw money at it, but it’s always hard to get exactly right.”

This might help explain the $23.6 million price tag and the multiple revisions to building permits in mid-construction. This “makes us think that there were a lot of changes made mid-project,” wrote the BuildZoom blog which broke down the estimated building costs.

Designed by Foster and Partners, the spacious, light-filled store features a cantilevered second floor, a pair of $1 million glass staircases and a “Genius Grove” repair area with a mini orchard of live Ficus trees.

Out back there’s an art-filled plaza with a 50-foot living green wall and public Wi-Fi. The store is as much a meeting place as a commercial spot, and will feature regular talks and performances by experts and artists.

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This is the front of the store, looking out onto the sidewalk. The contraction joint in the sidewalk lines up perfectly with a joint between the tiles on the floor inside the store.

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On the side of the store, the sidewalk joints line up with the windows.

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The tables on the ground floor are aligned with the cracks on the floor.

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And many of the interior shelving units are lined up with metal panels on the wall.

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Just about everywhere you look, the joints and cracks are aligned.

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This isn’t easy to see, but the top of the glass balcony on the mezzanine floor aligns perfectly with a joint between the huge glass panels at the front of the store.

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The lines and joints on the mezzanine floor line up with those on the ground floor below. See how the tiles on the mezzanine are aligned with the tiles on the ground floor, which are in line with the sidewalk.

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The alignment of all the architectural elements extends all the way to the ceiling and the lighting panels…

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… and around the outside of the building. It’s not easy to see in this shot, but the lines in the sidewalk are continuous with the exterior panels and the solar panels on the roof.

It’s one big perfect grid. Imagine what’s going on at the Spaceship.

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