Steve Jobs' impact on architecture: He was innovative on store front, too
SAN FRANSISCO: When the architect Peter Bohlin arrived for his first meeting with Steve Jobs, he wore a tie. "Steve laughed, and I never wore a tie again," Bohlin recalled.
Thus began a collaboration that has extended from Pixar's headquarters, completed in 2001, to more than 30 Apple Stores (and counting) around the globe, all designed by Bohlin and a team of architects from Bohlin Cywinski Jackson led by Karl Backus - and Jobs himself.
"The best clients, to my mind, don't say that whatever you do is fine," Bohlin said last week, a few days after Jobs' death. "They're intertwined in the process. When I look back, it's hard to remember who had what thought when. That's the best, most satisfying work, whether a large building or a house."
Just as Jobs transformed the notion of the personal computer and the cellphone, he left an indelible stamp on architecture, especially the retail kind, traditionally a backwater of the profession. "No one in commercial architecture has ever channelled a product into architecture for a client the way Peter did for Apple," said James Timberlake, a founding partner of Kieran-Timberlake, who is now designing the new American embassy in London. "Most commercial architecture is under-detailed, under-edited and underbudgeted. It's gross and ugly, and most of it is an eyesore on the American landscape." The work of Bohlin and his colleagues for Apple, by contrast, is sleek, transparent, inviting, technologically advanced - and expensive.
In many ways, the retail architecture is simply the largest box in which an Apple product is wrapped, and Jobs was famously attentive to every detail in an Apple product's presentation and customer experience.
The extensive use of glass in structures like Apple's cube on Fifth Avenue in New York, its cylinder in the Pudong district of Shanghai or its soaring market hall on the Upper West Side of Manhattan have become so distinctive that Apple is seeking to patent the glass elements.