Mike the Mad Biologist

There’s been a wee bit of excitement over the opening of the Apple Store in Boston. When you get right down to it, it’s just another Apple Store: as far as I can tell, there’s nothing special in terms of merchandise. It’s the architecture that’s the problem.

As a building, it’s very sleek and modern, and looks nice, and works well…unless it rains.

Oops.

Keep in mind, this is Boston, not Southern California. More than occasionally, God cries (no doubt over gay marriage), and it rains. Or snows. Or between February and May, schlumps.

I figured that a rainy evening was a good time to check out the store. The first thing is that there is an overhang where you can close your umbrella. Good. Except for the open doors that block the entrance to the store, forcing you to walk outside. Not so bad in May, crappy in March. Then there’s the elegantly designed minimalist interior which has no carpeting. That means that everyone’s umbrella piddles on the floor and leaves puddles everywhere.

So the Apple Store devised a solution: at the door, you have to enclose your umbrella in a plastic bag to prevent umbrella piddling. Of course, this is described as “ensuring your safety.” And it’s environmentally friendly to boot. So now you’re in the store, into which people are tracking dirt and mud–there’s no rug to wipe your feet. Minimalist interiors with light gray floors don’t look so good with mud (and umbrella piddle).

To get between floors, there is a plexiglass staircase with really narrow stairs. Plexiglass and water (not to mention wet shoes). Brilliant. And the staircase spirals in such a way that the narrow part is what you step on when you descend. This is going to work really well the week before Christmas. I saw one person almost fall in the ten minutes I was there. This very well could be an all-you-can-eat buffet for personal injury lawyers.

Like I said, it’s just an Apple Store–not the Beit HaMikdash. And it’s nice having it down the street. But Apple, which prides itself on style and design, needs to hire architects that understand that a building has to work in the environment it’s sited.

Comments

  1. #1 Julie Stahlhut
    May 17, 2008

    Regarding the opening sentence of your last paragraph: I’ve had more religious experiences in our local Apple Store than I ever had in a church. Then again, the store is enclosed in a well-maintained upscale shopping mall in nearby Victor, NY, and there’s not much for pedestrians to track in except for a few crumbs from the nearby Starbucks or the occasional perfume sample from Sephora.

  2. #2 Colugo
    May 17, 2008

    MIT is suing Gehry for problems with the Stata Center. Have you heard of John Silber’s book Architecture of the Absurd? Silber mentions a Boston University building that had totally inappropriate design for frequent snow.

  3. #3 QrazyQat
    May 17, 2008

    California needs rainproofing half the year.

  4. #4 chezjake
    May 17, 2008

    Talk about inappropriate architecture, have a look at the original uptown campus of the University at Albany. The story is that former Governor Rockefeller was visiting the offices of architect Edward Durell Stone and saw a model of a university campus being designed for somewhere in South America (Colombia or Venezuela). He liked it and said, “Oooh, build me one in Albany.”

    None of those original buildings had any storm doors or storm windows, the roofs weren’t insulated, and the overall style of both the Academic Podium (complex of all academic and administration buildings) and the four surrounding dorm quads was designed to magnify balmy tropical breezes — not such a great idea for the winter snow and winds of northeast New York state, which blow snow into drifts on steps to buildings and put a definite chill on leaving a building if you don’t have to. There’s a “tunnel” system that connects all the academic buildings at the basement level, which was originally designed for maintenance and delivery access, but by popular demand of both faculty and students is now also used extensively by all for getting between buildings in bad weather.

  5. #5 NickBob
    May 17, 2008

    The glass cube store in NYC I like, but the Boylston store looks to me like a parking garage with pretty wrapper. No thanks.
    The Seattle area schools I attended were taken from California designs, with flat roofs. Oddly enough, leaks were a constant problem. That’s a problem with fashion, designs for beautiful people or places don’t necessarily transfer well to the rest of us.

  6. #6 paihia
    May 18, 2008

    It’s a shame that apple doesn’t make its buildings as innovative as its products. why not have a solar-powered store, or in bostons case why not collect all that rainwater and channel it through a small generator which powers a coat-drying rack or something?

  7. #7 JM
    May 18, 2008

    “And the staircase spirals in such a way that the narrow part is what you step on when you descend. ”

    This highlights one of the more subtle elements of Guadi’s Sagreda La Familia in Barcelona. The cathredral has two towers at the front each containing a spiral staircase. You go up the one on the right, cross over and down the one on the left.

    You go up with the wide stair on the outside and the handrail at your right hand, but you go down the other with the handrail at your right and the wide part of the stair. In other words, one staircase is “clockwise” while the other is “anti-clockwise”. Very impressive.

  8. #8 Upstate NY
    May 18, 2008

    Regarding chezjake’s comment. I’m familiar with the UAlbany podium. The tunnel system reminds me of a New York City subway station without the trains, only devoid of the city’s general funkiness. It is pure utilitarian, similiar to the state mall in downtown Albany.

    Two redeeming virtues: During a 14 inch snowstorm on Valentine’s Day, 2007, I was able to use the tunnels to pass thru the podium avoiding mushing thru the high winds and uncleared snow above, to make it from one bus stop to another. And secondly, and more pleasantly, the UAlbany co-eds and their scanty bikinis are on display sunning around the cenral fountain/pool during the few warm months that the upstate NY environment provides.

    Those afraid of sexist comments please disregard the last sentence.

  9. #9 MikeB
    May 18, 2008

    I hadn’t heard of ‘Architecture of the Absurd’, but I would recommend Stewart Brand’s ‘How Buildings Learn’ – opened my eyes, and hopefully that of an architect or two.

  10. #10 SC
    May 19, 2008

    This, with photos, from the new Open Media Boston:

    http://www.openmediaboston.org/node/159

  11. #11 islami otel
    January 17, 2009

    The glass cube store in NYC I like, but the Boylston store looks to me like a parking garage with pretty wrapper. No thanks.
    The Seattle area schools I attended were taken from California designs, with flat roofs. Oddly enough, leaks were a constant problem. That’s a problem with fashion, designs for beautiful people or places don’t necessarily transfer well to the rest of us.

  12. #12 sohbet
    March 9, 2009

    Thanks Your So Much..

  13. #13 lig tv izle
    May 27, 2009

    i’ve shared this with all my friends! thanks.

  14. #14 DuWayne
    May 27, 2009

    Ok, there are a lot of places where spiral stairs aren’t even code, never mind the fucking plexiglass. What the fuck moron thought that spiral stairs in a retail store was a good idea?

  15. #15 turizm
    August 30, 2009

    Thank you.

  16. #16 Skyler
    March 10, 2011

    “I saw one person almost fall in the ten minutes I was there. This very well could be an all-you-can-eat buffet for personal injury lawyers.” If people visualized their architecture in a more feasible real life manner they could avoid a plethora of personal injury lawsuits.