Foster + Partners completes Apple store
in Hangzhou, China


News: Foster + Partners has released photographs of its new Apple store in Hangzhou – one of five new shops that the company is opening in China ahead of Chinese New Year (+ slideshow).

Apple Store Westlake Hangzhou China by Foster and Partners

The store – located close to Hangzhou's West Lake – is a 15-metre-high glazed box boasting a glowing ceiling, a cantilevered floor and glass staircases, and is one of Apple's largest retail outlets in Asia.

According to Foster + Partners, the design "combines an understanding of the local context with the philosophy of simplicity, beauty and technical innovation that characterises Apple's products".

Apple Store Westlake Hangzhou China by Foster and Partners

The West Lake Apple Store is one of five new shops that Angela Ahrendts – Apple's senior vice president of retail and online stores – said would open in the country before Chinese New Year, which takes place tomorrow.

Apple Store Westlake Hangzhou China by Foster and Partners

The first opened in Zhengzhou, capital of central Henan Province, on 10 January. The West Lake store followed two weeks later under the steer of Norman Foster's firm, which took over the design of Apple's stores in 2013.

Apple Store Westlake Hangzhou China by Foster and Partners

Completed in collaboration with a team that included representatives from Apple and engineering firm Eckersley O'Callaghan, the building features an entirely transparent facade made up of 11 double-glazed panels.

Mechanically controlled blinds offer shading when necessary, but can be concealed within the ceiling.

Apple Store Westlake Hangzhou China by Foster and Partners

The upper floor projects 12 metres from the rear wall, creating a nine-metre-high space intended to evoke "a sense of space and calm".

Apple Store Westlake Hangzhou China by Foster and Partners

"This gives the impression of a floating stage in the centre of the space – a new living room for the city," said the architects.

Apple Store Westlake Hangzhou China by Foster and Partners

The use of mass dampers –  harmonic absorbers that reduce the amplitude of mechanical vibrations – made it possible to make this floor uncommonly thin. It tapers from 1.2 metres to just 10 centimetres.

Apple Store Westlake Hangzhou China by Foster and Partners

The illuminated white ceilings are made up of custom-made lighting panels that also dampen sound, while staircases positioned on opposite sides of the store have floating glass treads that are held in place by embedded bolts.

Apple Store Westlake Hangzhou China by Foster and Partners

Foster + Partners began its collaboration with Apple in 2009 with the commission for Apple Campus 2, the company's new California headquarters. The first Apple store completed by the firm was in Istanbul, Turkey, and another is also underway in San Francisco.

Apple Store Westlake Hangzhou China by Foster and Partners

Apple opened its first China outlet in Beijing in 2008. The five new stores will bring the total number in China up to 20, but Apple CEO Tim Cook said in October this number will increase to 40 within two years.

Apple Store Westlake Hangzhou China by Foster and Partners

Photography is by Nigel Young, Foster + Partners.

  • athanasios (nasi)

    Apple retail stores: transparent glass boxes illuminated to the public.

    ‘Apple’ manufacturing plants: hidden behind legal grey areas.

    • spadestick

      Okay Mr human rights, how would you do it if you were Apple? I’m not saying I support Apple’s method, but how would you solve the equation?

      Would it work if every iPad and iPhone was created in Cupertino? Complaints without solutions leads to nowhere.

      • athanasios (nasi)

        It matters less where the products are created and more the conditions they are created in. Apple, like every large smartphone maker, distances itself from legal liability over workers conditions by outsourcing production. They could try two simple, easy steps to get the ball rolling:

        Step one: stop getting architects to say that the building has “an understanding of the local context … that characterises Apple’s products”. This ignores the context of how the products are actually made in factories in China.

        Step two: Apple could improve conditions by lobbying the Chinese government to let workers join the union of their choice.

        • spadestick

          I agree with step one. I don’t agree with step two. Unions are never the answer, but are only a band-aid on a wound self-inflicted by the company’s policies and management style/culture.

          Read Ricardo Semler on the most peculiar company in the world that does away with unions.

  • Frost

    This is… nothing.

  • The little details on how the stair treads, meet the walls, sums it up. Everything is floating. To create an airy, open, monolithic volume, with a sense of weightlessness, using the materials found in their products is smart marketing.

    The vertical lines integrating with the ceiling to pull the viewer in, with circulation oriented the same direction, is also well done. These stories, while very simple in appearance, have evolved slowly to show off the amount of thought and appreciation that Jobs had for good design.

    Didn’t Ives say, that good design simply gets out of the way?

    • Kate

      The stair tread meeting the wall is not such an amazing detail, just look below.

      Make sure you turn around and look at the other end of the stair tread, that is where the magic is… Check out that load-bearing glass balustrade!

      • I’m referring to the negative reveal on both sides of the tread. It’s subtle, but adds an incredible amount to the sense of floating.

      • James Burt

        Okay, show me better workmanship on an architectural project in China – even in Beijing, let alone Hangzhou. I think it looks excellent.

  • Mr. Marsden

    The design feats in this tidy, minimal store are astounding. Firstly, the glass facade is made of GIANT pieces of laminated glass that look to be 3 metres X 15 metres.

    Second, the stair is supported by another GIANT piece of laminated glass that has the stair supports embedded within it. The entire stair balustrade is one single piece of laminated glass!

    Not to mention the floating 12 metre platform that has almost no thickness on end. These are incredible elements that allow the building to look simple and clean while being remarkably complex. Which follows the Apple design ethos perfectly.

  • emerckxx

    Tidy details, admirable engineering, and good QC for China… But still, ZZZ.

  • Jeremy

    When will architects start thinking about the way people use the building rather than what the building looks like.

    Apple’s retail vision is stale and represents nothing of the future of retail or shopping. Yes the Artek stools and glass are nice, but surely there is another way of thinking about retail.

    • spadestick


    • Given the ludicrous amount of money the stores earn per square foot, I’d say they’re thinking about retail pretty damn well.

  • Crumb

    I wonder what Mies would think of this.

  • Adriano Furtado

    Why do they have to ruin it with a Romero Britto ‘artwork’ on the wall?

  • shao

    There are many ways to make a great piece of architecture. Apple store is there to sale Apple global products, and the building serve that particular purpose very well.

    The building is not a Chinese Culture Center or Mandarin Express. You don’t wear a Tang Zhuang or Qi Pao everyday, nor do you ride a horse wagon for commute, so how is that every building in China has to look traditional Chinese?

    A great building can be traditional, modern, or expressional. I like them all and diversity always make a city more exciting.

  • Jon C

    Foster + Partners is definitely the right architect for Apple. Simple and flawless but with a lot of design and engineering effort behind their work.

  • Karol_B

    Interesting how the same transparent retail architecture is destroyed in Poland (Warsaw’s retail pavilions: Emilia, Chemii, Supersam) under argumentation that it’s “out of time” and “non functional”.