Designed by Foster + Partners, Apple opens its most expansive store in Japan
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Designed by Foster + Partners, Apple opens its most expansive store in Japan

Apple’s latest store in Tokyo’s business district Marunouchi expresses a simple materiality, with open, light-filled interiors and vitrines lining its facades.

by Jincy Iype Sep 24, 2019

Located amid the Marunouchi business district, across the historic Tokyo Station, the Apple Marunouchi is the latest and largest Apple retail store to open in Japan till date. As soon as the visitors come out of the railway station, they get a clear and direct view of the new building from across the road. The store has been designed by teams from Apple - led by Sir Jonathan Ive, chief design officer - in close collaboration with integrated engineering and design teams at British architectural and design firm, Foster + Partners. The Apple retail store opened to public on September 7, 2019.

The store is situated in the 1973 Mitsubishi Building, and embodies its structural grid in a delicate, minimal fashion. It seems to encapsulate an honest and green materiality, with its sleek vitrines (a glass display), and its gentle usage of bamboo. The high-rise Mitsubishi Building nudges a subtle narrative into the design and aesthetic of the Apple store, apparent in its modern and linear facades.

Talking about the building, Sir Jonathan Ive said, “I love the simplicity of the space. There is an honesty in terms of how the structure of the building, the green bamboo, and the transparent vitrines all come together to form a light-filled volume that is full of life.”

  • Apple Marunouchi in Tokyo, Japan designed by Foster + Partners | Apple Marunouchi | Foster + Partners | STIR
    Apple Marunouchi in Tokyo, Japan, designed by Foster + Partners Image Credit: Courtesy of Apple
  • Apple Marunouchi with two storey vitrine windows | Apple Marunouchi | Foster + Partners | STIR
    Apple Marunouchi with two-storey vitrine windows Image Credit: Nigel Young / Foster + Partners
  • Apple Marunouchi at night | Apple Marunouchi | Foster + Partners | STIR
    Apple Marunouchi at night Image Credit: Nigel Young / Foster + Partners

The exterior of the building exudes a subtle and definite essence, with two-storey vitrine windows lining the façades. This extrinsic detail sets the building apart from the gridded structures it is surrounded with, yet blends in with them astutely. The vitrines are made from aluminium, specifically cast to obtain three-dimensional, smooth and rounded corners, a first of its kind. Local bamboo lines the insides of the window openings, infusing life and greenery into the store’s interiors. Creating and adding onto the intrigue that the store delivers, the spandrel on the upper levels of the store have mirrored panels on them, which reflect the vibrant street life outside and the planted bamboo inside.

We wanted to create a restrained presence amid the bustle of Tokyo. The beautifully crafted aluminium vitrines define the boundary of the store and Apple’s presence, offering everyone walking by a glimpse into the store. The structural grid gives the entire volume a certain rhythm, while the calm interior is enhanced by the bamboo that lines the perimeter. – Stefan Behling, Head of Studio, Foster + Partners
  • Local bamboo lines the insides of the window openings at the Apple Marunouchi | Apple Marunouchi | Foster + Partners | STIR
    Local bamboo lines the insides of the window openings at Apple Marunouchi Image Credit: Nigel Young / Foster + Partners
  • Specially designed vitrines, with smooth and rounded corners at the Apple Marunouchi | Apple Marunouchi | Foster + Partners | STIR
    Specially designed vitrines, with smooth and rounded corners at Apple Marunouchi Image Credit: Nigel Young / Foster + Partners
    Specially designed vitrines, with smooth and rounded corners at the Apple Marunouchi | Apple Marunouchi | Foster + Partners | STIR
    Specially designed vitrines, with smooth and rounded corners at Apple Marunouchi Image Credit: Courtesy of Apple

A white, sculptural staircase at the right side of the entrance provides access to the upper floor. Assembled on site, this staircase coalesces with the light-filled interiors because of its white-painted, cladded aluminium handrail, and its treads fashioned with terrazzo. The insides of the store feature even more spaciousness and warmth, as the ceiling is covered with white ash timber. To blend in with the interiors, the building is rendered in white plaster, incorporating a traditional Japanese technique.

  • The ceiling of Apple Marunouchi is clad with white ash timber | Apple Marunouchi | Foster + Partners | STIR
    The ceiling of Apple Marunouchi is clad with white ash timber Image Credit: Courtesy of Apple
  • The staircase inside Apple Marunouchi is painted white, adding on to the light filled interiors | Apple Marunouchi | Foster + Partners | STIR
    The staircase inside Apple Marunouchi is painted white, adding on to the light filled interiors Image Credit: Courtesy of Apple
  • The building is rendered in white plaster | Apple Marunouchi | Foster + Partners | STIR
    The building is rendered in white plaster Image Credit: Nigel Young / Foster + Partners
  • The building is rendered in white plaster, and has two storey vitrines | Apple Marunouchi | Foster + Partners | STIR
    External view of the building Image Credit: Nigel Young / Foster + Partners

At the Apple Marunouchi, customers can get access to the latest Apple products, and technical assistance from Creative Pros (person who guides, instructs within an Apple store). At the far end of the space is the Forum screen, a large video wall, situated within the double heighted space; this atrium takes up most of the store’s centre, and links both levels of the store, in addition to providing clear, visual connectivity.

  • Visitors looking at the Forum screen at Apple Marunouchi, Tokyo | Apple Marunouchi | Foster + Partners | STIR
    Visitors looking at the Forum screen at Apple Marunouchi, Tokyo Image Credit: Nigel Young / Foster + Partners
  • Customers can get assistance at the store | Apple Marunouchi | Foster + Partners | STIR
    Customers can get assistance at the store Image Credit: Courtesy of Apple
  • Customers are provided technical assistance from Creative Pros | Apple Marunouchi | Foster + Partners | STIR
    Customers are provided technical assistance from Creative Pros Image Credit: Courtesy of Apple

The clever way in which the store respects its location with its design, yet stands out imperceptibly, is expressive of Apple’s brand and visual. The Apple Marunouchi by Foster + Partners inhabits an important urban position in its placement within the central district of Marunouchi, near the famous Emperor’s Palace park and the Tokyo Station in proximity. The capacious and open structure of the Apple store displays disciplined design and sleek aesthetics through its vitrines and incorporation of a minimal colour palette, seamlessly becoming part of Tokyo, a vibrant and bustling city.

  • Site Plan | Apple Marunouchi | Foster + Partners | STIR
    Site Plan Image Credit: Courtesy of Foster + Partners
  • Plan - Level 1 | Apple Marunouchi | Foster + Partners | STIR
    Plan - Level 1 Image Credit: Courtesy of Foster + Partners
  • Plan - Level 2 | Apple Marunouchi | Foster + Partners | STIR
    Plan - Level 2 Image Credit: Courtesy of Foster + Partners
  • North South Section | Apple Marunouchi | Foster + Partners | STIR
    North-South Section Image Credit: Courtesy of Foster + Partners
  • East Elevation | Apple Marunouchi | Foster + Partners | STIR
    East Elevation Image Credit: Courtesy of Foster + Partners
  • North Elevation| Apple Marunouchi | Foster + Partners | STIR
    North Elevation Image Credit: Courtesy of Foster + Partners

Project Details

Name of the project: Apple Marunouchi
Location: Tokyo, Japan
Year of completion: 2019
Architect: Foster + Partners, in collaboration with Apple’s design team led by Sir Jonathan Ive

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About Author

Jincy Iype

Jincy Iype

Iype is a trained architect, who often indulges in writing and amateur photography. She was a cinephile and a melophile even before she knew what those words meant. She is inclined towards architecture journalism, and can usually be found curled up reading a book, or cooking for therapeutic relief.

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