Apple's new store in Sydney opened 19 June 2008. I visited yesterday and found it still crowded with people. The store has the same glass curtain wall, transparent minimal design as other Apple stores. It makes an interesting contrast with the Telstra T.Life store opposite. Telstra have tried very hard to be cool, but can't quite achieve it, whereas Apple seem to do it effortlessly.
The architectural highlight of the Apple store is a glass staircase. The treads appear transparent when looked at side on, creating anxiety as to how substantial they are. However, they are made of multiple sheets of laminated glass and when you look down at the step you are standing on you see that the top surface is frosted and has a miniature checker plate non slip pattern on it. The result is something which looks insubstantial from a distance but solid close up.
The store has minimal blond wood furniture and a white back lit wall. It looks best from across the road at night and appears to be a large glass display case. The ground floor has desktop and note book computers, with iPods on the first floor and training and support above. Like the Telstra store, it is so minimal that it is difficult to discover there are other floors or what might be on them and so I needed to ask one of the numerous and very helpful staff.
One dangerous flaw with the store is that the presence of glass indicators on the curtain wall are inadequate. These have been done in frosting and, particularly from the side, are not easy to see. As a result I almost walked into the glass wall of the building. I pointed this out to one of the staff , suggesting they needed to add more and easy to see markers (they said they would tell the management). Apple need to fix this quickly; apart from the danger to pedestrians, a service or emergency vehicle maneuvering on the footpath could well drive into the building, not seeing the glass. Australian Standard AS 1288-2006 Glass in buildings - Selection and installation, section 5.19: MAKING GLASS VISIBLE (MANIFESTATION) requires a glass panel to be marked to make it visible with an opaque band which is readily apparent. The Apple store does not meet this standard.
Also the front steps are in gray stone, which is hard to see and could be improved with some warning Tactile Ground Surface Indicators. The architect might think these additions would detract from the minimal design, but it would be better than death or injury to the customers or staff.