Reinventing the Travel Experience

Ziba Ghassemi is Vice President of Design at Westfield Airports. With a passion for experiential environments, Ziba spearheads design projects in the airport space. She is currently leading the charge on implementing virtual reality into Westfield Airport design.

Apple doesn’t build new stores for the sake of selling merchandise. The company wants instead to connect to consumers and communities through its design and give people a place to explore, discover and engage. But don’t let that fool you: Sales won’t be dropping anytime soon.

Consider Apple’s new flagship store under construction along Chicago’s riverfront. Here are some of the latest details, courtesy of the Chicago Tribune:

“The glass walls and thin roof supported by four columns are meant to nearly invisibly connect what’s inside the store and what’s out. All retail is below street level, to avoid blocking the view overlooking the river.

The transparent walls, 14 feet high at street level and 32 feet high near the river, are made of four layers of half-inch thick glass joined with layers of stronger, thicker laminated glass so they won’t bend in the wind or break if hit — though they can crack.

The roof is made from a lightweight material used in yacht hulls to keep it thin — 4 feet thick at its widest point and 4 inches at its narrowest, with an Apple logo on top.

The store will have many of the new elements introduced at a San Francisco Apple store that opened last year, McGrath said, including the outdoor plaza, a gathering place centered around a video wall Apple calls ‘The Forum’ that can host events and classes, a stretch of windowlike displays showing off products and indoor ficus trees.”


This isn’t just a place to buy products. Apple is after a connection. A feeling. It’s the latest evolution of retail.

While the old Apple model was to connect to consumers, this store is reaching out to a community. It wants to be part of the fabric of the city – a town hall, a gathering place, an architectural landmark. It’s the place you come to meet up with a friend, hang out, see a musician and get inspired.

People are encouraged to come in, look around, try out some of the new technology, talk to employees and each other, and then leave. Buying an item is an afterthought.

That’s the genius of it all – a store not selling products but selling an experience.

Apple has already created a number of different platforms for people to connect – think FaceTime, iMessage, iPods, iPhones, Apple Watches, etc. This store is yet another platform, one that allows people to hang out and connect face to face on a personal, social or business level.  And, like these other platforms, it’s meant to inspire you.

Much like Apple products and the campus in Cupertino, the look of the new store is uncluttered and modern. It’s simple yet thoughtful. The materials have been carefully selected to match the look of Apple’s campus and send consumers a consistent message about quality.

On the ground, the store itself isn’t a store at all. The tall glass panels are meant specifically not to impede with the impressive views Downtown. It’s a beautiful piece of architecture that becomes part of the natural and surrounding environment with no pressure to buy anything.

The interior is wide open space. Front to back you will see the entire room. You will see everybody browsing, engaged, trying out new devices and interacting with staff.

The design is more than aesthetic. It’s experiential. This is the future of retail design. It’s warm, welcoming and focused on inspiring you and your neighbors. The experience is bigger than the sale and reaps a much greater, longer lasting reward…loyalty. The greatest sale of all.

Top photo credit: Chicago Tribune

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