Apple’s stunning new China store has a floating second floor

On the surface, Apple’s new store in Hangzhou, China doesn’t look a lot different from other Apple Stores around the world – there’s plenty of glass to be found and wooden tables that house plenty of Apple products. However at a closer glance, the latest Apple Store designed by Foster + Parter is quite an architectural feat.

As Wired’s design column points out, the new store in Hangzhou has ceilings that are roughly 50 feet high, with no columns to be found. The glass panels reach from floor to ceiling without interruption, meaning Foster + Partners had to push well beyond their previous feats with the 32 foot tall Fifth Avenue Store in New York City.

But internally, the new store, which Foster + Partners describes as “a new living room for the city,” pushes the limits of structural engineering.
“The Hangzhou store’s ceilings are almost 50 feet high, with no columns to be found,” Wired describes. “The façade of glass panels reaches from floor to ceiling without interruption, meaning Foster + Partners had to push well beyond their previous feats in glass manufacturing to get 11 seamless panes.”
The second floor floats over the first with no visible suspension or support. Its glowing base serves as a giant light box for the products beneath, while two glass staircases either side allow customers to get on top of it and peruse more of Apple’s wares.

Suspending a ceiling like this is a feat in itself, but making it strong enough for thousands of customers to walk upon it every day is something else. The floor uses tuned mass dampers to prevent it from swaying as customers walk around it, and yet more glass panels around its edges to prevent them from stepping off the sides.
“With each new store in China, Apple is investing in increasingly out-there manufacturing techniques,” Wired notes. The Cupertino company isn’t just content with revolutionizing product design; it has to match that with radical retail stores unlike anything else on the high street.

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