FC&A reports on Foster + Partners’ design for Apple Dubai Mall

In April, Apple unveiled its newest state-of-the-art store in the Middle East – Apple Dubai Store. Intended as a communal space where visitors come to shop as well as learn and connect with others, the unenclosed building offers a sense of openness with a nod towards the trend of blurring the lines between inside and outside spaces.

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Sited adjacent to Burj Khalifa and the Dubai Fountain, the Foster + Partners-designed Apple Dubai Store will serve as a venue to watch the striking evening fountain shows, and will play host to Apple’s recent innovation, ‘Today at Apple’ – the pioneer’s new in-store experience where new creative pros – the liberal arts counterpart of Apple’s technical ‘Geniuses’ – will offer individual advice and training on photography, filmmaking, art and design and more.

As the city’s second Apple store, Apple Dubai Mall is reinventing the traditional introverted idea of mall-based retail as a more outward-looking experience that engages with the spectacle of urban life. Its design is a highly innovative response to the culture and climate of the Emirates, while also demonstrating Apple’s ambition to create inspirational civic spaces for all.

Located in Dubai Mall – one of the most-visited urban centres in the world, attracting over 80 million visitors every year since 2014 – the new Apple Dubai Mall occupies the most pivotal position in the city.

Spanning over two floors, it embraces the theatre of the fountains with a sweeping 186ft (56.6m) wide and 18ft (5.5m) deep terrace – a first for any Apple store – with unparalleled views of the spectacular setting and the incredible choreographed display.

Stefan Behling, Head of Studio at Foster + Partners, said: “The design of Apple Dubai Mall is about creating an exceptional architectural and social experience for visitors, bringing to the fore new ideas about the evolving role of Apple flagships in the community. I am sure Apple Dubai Mall will become a true people’s place.”

The design of Apple Dubai Mall is a continuing collaboration between the Apple design team under the leadership of Jony Ive and Foster + Partners.

Apple Dubai Mall fact file

•The Dubai Fountain is the world’s tallest performing fountain situated on the 30-acre Burj Lake. It is over 900ft (274m) in length – equivalent to over two football pitches.

•Carbon fibre was chosen for the Solar Wings because it resists oxidation and is extremely lightweight – each wing is 37.5ft (11m) tall, 10ft (3m) wide and weighs just 1 ton (1200kg).

•There are 18 wings in total.

•The wings are thicker towards the middle along their length to resist wind loads and, together with the terrace overhang, the screens improve thermal comfort inside the store.

•The wings are motorised – take one minute to open/close.

•Each wing is made of 340 carbon fibre rods, whose geometry was carefully designed so that none of them actually intersect.

Like many other Apple stores, Apple Dubai Mall blurs the lines between inside and outside environments, with biophilic elements incorporated – natural components and light-filled spaces.

It is a celebration of the sun, using the abundant daylight to create a special ambience within. Reinterpreting the traditional Arabic mashrabiya, innovative ‘Solar Wings’ gently shade the outside terrace during the day – alleviating Dubai’s scorching atmospheric conditions – and open majestically during the evening to reveal the ‘best seat in the house’ with a breathtaking view of the waterside promenade and fountains. With their movement path inspired by a falcon spreading its wings, the Solar Wings are in itself a theatrical experience – an integrated vision of kinetic art and engineering.

The wings have been carefully crafted to inspire delight, a delicate combination of form and function. Made entirely of lightweight carbon fibre, each wing has multiple layers of tubes forming a dense net.

Following an in-depth study of sun angles, the rods have been distributed in higher concentration where the solar radiation is the most intense over the year. The unique pattern allows clear views out for people standing on both levels of the store, and the sunlight streaming through the wings casts dappled shadows deep into the interior.

“The opening and closing of these majestic Solar Wings is analogous to a delicate ballet recital – but on a monumental scale. In some ways it is a very spiritual experience, with the sun streaming through them and creating the most delicate and beautiful patterns of light and shade – a seamless blend of technology and culture,” Behling added.

Access to the store is through full-height, glazed pivoting doors on both levels, directly from Dubai Mall. The Avenue, a specially designed area for the accessories display, on the lower level along with Apple’s signature display tables sits in the midst of a grove of trees, creating a calm environment to experience Apple’s latest products.

The new shaded terrace features nine substantial trees within large planters incorporating seating for visitors to sit, relax and enjoy the view. The planters will rotate mechanically to ensure that the trees receive even sunlight. The terrace will offer the communities of Dubai a new vantage point – furthering Apple’s commitment to the communities they are part of.

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