The once and future site of Apple Georgetown. (Google Street View)
While it is relatively old news that Apple (and ur-designers BCJ’s) efforts to build a new Apple Store in Georgetown are being foiled by a group of local preservationists–I first stumbled upon it on Apple Insider while reading reports from MacWorld–it was a Bloomberg report in today’s ArchNewsNow (h/t) that really got me thinking about the reality of such a store and just how it might take shape.
The Apple Store in Soho is a masterful marriage of new and old. (Peter Aaron/Courtesy Esto)
When I read that “Apple’s architects, Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, proposed building a store with an all-glass front at street level, topped by a slab of masonry with an Apple logo cut through it,” I was rather surprised by the proposal. After all, one need look no further than Apple’s three Manhattan stores to see a thorough going commitment to historic preservation and adaptive reuse.
Apple’s first, and most sensitive, venture in the city was the 2002 conversion (as always, by BCJ) of a sumptuous 1920s post-office in perhaps our most chicly historic neighborhood into an intensely sleek and yet extremely demure flagship. Despite all the straight lines and polished glass inside, the exterior of Apple Soho remains almost untouched, a respectful gesture to the cast iron beauties that surround it.
While its–much ballyhooed–24-hour sibling on 5th Avenue has a decidedly more modern look, so does its surroundings, at the foot of the GM Building. Not to mention that, as MAS president Kent Barwick once told us, the new store resurrected an otherwise insufferable plaza. And while slightly more ostentatious than the Soho store (and really, isn’t the entire Meatpacking District?), Apple’s latest store on 14th Street still manages to adeptly combine a classic concrete loft building with a glassy electronics outlet.
Why, then, would Apple make such a radical proposal for such a buttoned up community as Georgetown? Again, the Bloomberg article provides some interesting clues:
It’s not the first time Cupertino, California-based Apple was asked to revamp the design of one of its stores.
Three years ago, a Boston architectural commission reviewing the glass façade that Apple proposed for a local store said the design “didn’t have a sense of place” in the neighborhood.
Apple amended the design and worked with the Boston Redevelopment Authority to make sure the store–noteworthy for a giant wall of glass–fit in with the area. The Boston shop opened last year.
You can see the Boston store here, in The Wall Street Journal‘s brief account of the Apple Georgetown affair. Just looking at it, the Boston store is a far more modern proposal than its historical cousins in New York.
The Georgetown Metropolitan's crudely beautiful rendering of BCJ's apparent proposal for Apple Georgetown. (Courtesy Georgetown Metropolitan)
Back in Georgetown, the local board that has so far denied the designs is obviously not opposed to a store being located on the premises. Not only is that section of Wisconsin Avenue essentially an outdoor mall, but the building was previously occupied by a French Connection boutique.
The only explanation, then, is the old preservationist saw that the developer and architect have put forward an outlandish proposal they have no intention of actually building so that when the actual design comes up for review, it looks rosy by comparison. Now where have we heard that before?