Apple Store – Covent Garden
San Francisco-based practice Bohlin Cywinski Jackson has restored a Grade II-listed building in London’s Covent Garden for retail giant Apple. Apple Store Covent Garden is the brand’s largest store in Europe and was the biggest in the world until the Grand Central Station store in New York opened in December 2011. Open brickwork and stone arches form a beautifully restored architectural backdrop to the sleek designs of Apple’s iPhones, iMacs, iPads and the many other products on sale at the Covent Garden store.
‘Our store on Regent Street is one of the most popular and successful Apple stores in the world and we think the people of London will love the new Apple Store Covent Garden just as much.’ – Ron Johnson, Apple’s senior vice president of Retail said
- UK practice Julian Harrap provided specialist conservation support to Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, the American practice behind the concept designs for all of Apple’s buildings.
- Gensler, who acted as the “architect of record” on the project, adapted the standard colour palette used in Apple’s shops to preserve the character of the 1870s buildings.
- Included in the design is a signature glass staircase and a covered meeting area with a faceted glass roof which was formerly a courtyard space.
A new atrium with glazed roof allows light to flood into the courtyard below, where Apple Mac fanatics can try out the latest iPad or iPhone. Two glass stairways take shoppers up to a mezzanine of ‘innovative services’ including the Genius bar for technical support and the Community Room for in-house training on Mac software.
Located behind the arches of the Covent Garden Piazza, the Grade II-listed building, which dates back to 1876, was fully restored in 2010 by Bohlin Cywinski Jackson – the architects responsible for many of Apple’s groundbreaking stores, including the glass cube for the Manhattan Fifth Avenue branch. Covent Garden ‘is our most historic store, we’ve spent a lot of time refurbishing the building, retaining its original features and giving it an Apple spin,’ says Ron Johnson, formerly Apple’s senior vice president of retail.
Covent Garden is a magnet for locals and tourists, especially on weekends when street entertainers provide a show. The space in front of the Apple store is typically a sea of people on Saturdays. The store was the firms’ 300th and most historic store and opened its doors on Saturday 7th of August 2010. The retail space occupies about 30,100 square-feet, including stock in the basement. The building provides ground-floor, mezzanine and partial second-floor (first-floor in UK terminology) retail space. The remainder of the second, third and fourth floors is occupied by offices and meeting rooms for Apple’s European administrative staff. The basement is used for stock and other back-of-house functions.
The ground-floor spaces have been unified, given a level stone floor and updated to the clients’ standard interior design. A spiral glass staircase has been fitted in the southwest corner of the structure. The interior courtyard has been incorporated into the retail space. The mezzanine has been rebuilt, levelled and modified to make room for the glass staircase. The rear portion of the second-floor has been remodelled to accommodate a “Small Business area”.
Substantial restorations have been made to the Grade II listed building on The Piazza. Historic features that had deteriorated or disappeared were all under the supervision of an independent heritage specialist. In order to work with and retain historic features and structural components within the building, a LC35/38 Lytag® lightweight coarse and fines aggregate concrete was designed to comply with the maximum specified dry density requirement of 1520kg/m3.
Objections Remain Over Covent Garden Design:
Structural construction work has begun for the future Covent Garden (London) retail store, which architectural plans indicate will be one of the chain’s most expensive to build, but will also be the most impressive to visit when it’s finished. The location less than a mile from the existing Regent Street store is shrouded in scaffolding and protective netting, even as thousands of summer visitors crowd the plaza, marketplace and surrounding retailers each day. New planning documents highlight the historic nature of the building, and also the balancing act that local officials are undertaking: objections to Apple’s architectural design that change the building’s historic nature, versus the desperate need to bring a high-profile retailer to Covent Garden. Last November the Westminster Council approved initial construction plans, but set out certain conditions on the finer points of design that Gensler, Apple’s architect, are still working to meet. But unless a major impasse is reached between Apple and city planners, the store will open in mid-2010 as the chain’s showcase.
The UK is home to Apple’s two oldest stores: the Regent Street (London) location was carefully installed within a building owned by the Crown, with most architectural features restored and preserved. The building and its intricate mosaic storefront dates to 1898. The Buchanan Street (Glasgow) store features tall Corinthian columns and a massive, weathered-stone storefront. The building dates to 1842. Both stores generated few objections from preservationists when the architectural plans were originally presented. In both cases Apple’s architects went to great lengths on their own to retain–and even highlight–original features.
The private Covent Garden square dates to the 1630s, and was surrounded on four sides by noble mansions. The addition of a church later led to the space becoming public.
The Covent Garden buildings Apple will occupy date to a major restoration ending in 1879. They consist of #1 The Piazza and #6-7 The Piazza, both ground floor spaces, Bedford Chambers above, and Cubitt’s Yard, an interior courtyard that originally provided service access to rear of the buildings. The building design is credited to Henry Clutton, and was built by William Cubitt & Co., a notable firm at the time.
The building may be the best-documented structure in Apple’s chain. The London Metropolitan Archives still has Corbitt’s original construction plans on file. The façade hid and unified the combination of buildings that comprised Bedford Chambers. It also included an exterior arcade with eight arches facing Covent Garden market, an interior, two-level courtyard covered with glass, a large original staircase to the upper-level offices, and a mezzanine.
A heritage consultant’s review of the building found that the original storefronts and roofs have “high significance” architecturally. The chimneys, cornices, doors and window linings are considered “significant,” the consultant said. But the building does have “detracting elements,” including poorly-designed and executed door and window joinery, modern pavement in the portico, and the modern glazing over the interior courtyard.
Everyone agrees that the location, shape and configuration of the current retail spaces has discouraged retailers from leasing the building. The lack of modern amenities has also discouraged use of the upper-floor office space. A restaurant has occupied the eastern end of the building for several years, but its success has not attracted other tenants to the building.
Apple’s proposal would, “undo this situation and unlock the potential of this important site,” the consultant reported. It would, “provide substantial community and conservation area benefits which would on balance outweigh the losses.”
Otherwise, Covent Garden is a magnet for locals and tourists, especially on weekends when street entertainers provide a show. The space in front of the future Apple store is typically a sea of people on Saturdays.
Under Apple’s design, the building will provide ground-floor, mezzanine and partial second-floor (first-floor in UK terminology) retail space. The remainder of the second, third and fourth floors will be occupied by offices and meeting rooms for Apple’s European administrative staff. The basement will be used for stock and other back-of-house functions.
The current hodge-podge of ground-floor spaces will be unified, given a level stone floor and updated to Apple’s standard interior design. Apple will install a spiral glass staircase in the southwest corner of the structure, glass-over an interior light well and install a lift and stairway in its place, and the interior courtyard will be incorporated into the retail space.
The mezzanine will be rebuilt, leveled and modified to make room for the glass staircase. The rear portion of the second-floor will be remodeled to accommodate an “Apple Small Business area,” according to submitted plans.
Apple has committed to upgrading the building’s support systems, including accessibility upgrades, along with power, water and air-handling improvements. Apple has agreed to make substantial restorations to historic features that have deteriorated or disappeared, all under the supervision of an independent heritage specialist.
When finished, the retail space will occupy about 30,100 square-feet, including stock in the basement.
According to planning documents, officials have allowed Apple to begin construction, even as Gensler architects prepare alternate design proposals for the interior and exterior details to meet various objections by city officials and architectural groups.
First, planning officials object to Apple’s proposal to move the main entrance now at the front of the building to the James Street side-street. The design proposal would also remove the original wooden staircase that leads from the ground floor to the second-floor. The stairway relocation would also mean the loss of the original door woodwork and detailing.
The building owner proposed to create a single space by removing the intervening stairway, saying it was, “critical to the building’s success and its ability to attract a suitable retailer.”
But the Westminster Planning Applications Sub-Committee noted that the staircase and details were, “the only remaining fragments of historic fabric and plan form found at ground level.” They said the removal would be contrary to the city’s planning policy for historic buildings, and that it had not been proven retaining the staircase would negatively divide the retail space.
Apple did address some concerns, the sub-committee said, including changes to the storefront materials (timber instead of metal), signage and courtyard construction. In a letter to the city’s Department of Planning and City Development, Apple’s representative stuck to the proposal for moving the stairs. He said Apple and the building owner, “have sought to address the shortcomings of this building and believe they have developed a design sympathetic (to) its special architectural character whilst meeting modern day requirements.”
But in the sub-committee report, the group said the changes, “do not overcome the fundamental concerns over the removal of the doorcase/entrance to Bedford Chambers and the removal of the lower part of the main Bedford Chambers stair.”
Bohlin Cywinski Jackson Architects:
The Apple Store, Covent Garden occupies the first three levels of a nineteenth century hotel and adjacent warehouse building facing Inigo Jones’ market square in London’s West End. The building’s interior has been restored to its essence, revealing the hallmarks of its early industrial revolution construction: iron structural frame, rustic brick walls, and concrete deck.
At the center of the space, a crisp stainless steel skylight caps what was once the delivery forecourt for horse-drawn carriages. Deep within the building, a linear glass stair and elevator have been inserted into a restored lightwell. Together, these brightly daylit multistory spaces have been created to bring order and provide strong visual anchors within the existing compartmentalized interior.
- AIA California Council awarded the Apple Store, Covent Garden a Merit Award in Architecture in its 2011 Design Awards program. The Apple Store at Covent Garden occupies the first three levels of a nineteenth century building complex facing Inigo Jones’ market square in London’s West End. Three primary objectives guided the design process for this store: to respect and restore the original building fabric as a site-specific backdrop for the products on display, to bring order and unity to the highly compartmentalized interior, and to insert deliberately modern elements into the historic backdrop in order to reinforce the contrast between old and new.
Project name: Apple Store Covent Garden
Location: 1-7, The Piazza, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 8HA, United Kingdom
Type: Store / Shop / Showroom / Retail, Adaptive Reuse
Project Year: 2009 – 2010
Project Area: 30,100 sq.ft
Status: Built, Completed
Opened: August 7 2010
Completion Year: 2010
Client / Owner / Developer: Apple Inc.
Interior Designer: Bohlin Cywinski Jackson Architects – 49 Geary Street, Suite 300, San Francisco, California 94108, United States
Architect of Record: Gensler – 2 Harrison St #400, San Francisco, CA 94105, United States
Conservation Specialist: Julian Harrap Arch
Structural Engineer: Eckersley O’Callaghan
Main Contractor: Faithdean Ltd
Sub-Contractor: John F Hunt Demolition Group
Readymix supplier: London Concrete
Text Description: © Courtesy of Bohlin Cywinski Jackson Architects, architectsjournal, lytag, ifoapplestore
Images: © Hufton + Crow, Apple Store – Covent Garden, ifoapplestore