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Apple Retail Store in San Francisco was realized by façade specialist seele with an astounding steel-and-glass sliding section.


sliding sections  


long balustrades  


glass stairs with 28 steps

apple retail store san francisco - highlighting steel and glass

In 2016 a fantastic new Apple retail store was opened in the shopping, theatre and hotel district around San Francisco’s Union Square. It conforms to Apple’s new store concept and was one of the first new-style retail outlets to be opened. seele was appointed to provide the main and rear façades, the glazing to the east façade and the glass stairs, skylights, doors and balustrades.

The highlight of this retail store is the main façade. With an astounding height of 13m and 12m wide steel-and-glass sliding sections, the result is unrestricted views into and out of the building. This façade concept is repeated at the rear of the store, where another pair of huge sliding sections provides access to a rear courtyard so that Apple fans can experience the products in the open air.

  • Inside the store, glass stairs left and right lead to the upper floor. With their minimalistic stainless steel fittings on the steps, the stairs seem to be floating in mid-air. Each step is fitted between a glass string and the wall clad in stainless steel. In a seismic zone like San Francisco, the stairs presented a real challenge for the structural engineers. With glass balustrades up to 10m long on all sides, the gallery on the upper level seems to be almost floating above the ground floor. seele’s scope of work also included the double-leaf doors integrated in the façade, glazing in the east façade and two skylights.

Incredible sliding sections for an Apple retail store

The technical concept and installation of the huge sliding sections in the north and south façades were the main challenges of this project. It takes about 7 minutes to open the sliding sections, which entails moving more than 40t. As this store is located in a seismic zone, the structural requirements for this project were very demanding. Each sliding section is therefore equipped with an earthquake-resistant locking mechanism.

  • Logistics was another important aspect in this big city. The portal frames were delivered to the rear of the building in four separate parts and then bolted together. Afterwards, they were raised to the vertical position with a crane, lifted over the building and installed. Each frame was first aligned at the base and then tilted backwards into the correct position. Installation of the glass took place mainly at night for safety reasons and also to comply with the tight scheduling requirements. seele completed all its works in just five months.
It takes about 7 minutes to open the sliding sections completely. The long glass balustrade to the gallery is virtually invisible.
The north façade also includes a pair of huge steel-and-glass sliding sections.
Setting up the steel portal frames: After being assembled at the rear of the building, they were raised to the vertical position with a crane, lifted over the building and installed.


Client Apple Inc.
Main contractor Apple Inc.
Architect Foster + Partners
Date of completion 2016
Scope of seele supply
  • 2 glass stairs each with 28 steps, 1 landing and 1 glass string
  • 6 balustrades up to 10m long
  • 2 skylights max. 6m long x 2.3m wide
  • Glazing to east façade: 3-ply laminated glass, 2.30 x 13m
  • North façade: approx. 8m high, with 12m wide x 8m high sliding sections and 2 double-leaf side-hung glass doors
  • Main façade, facing south: approx. 13m high, with 12m wide x 13m high sliding sections and 2 double-leaf side-hung glass doors