The secret history behind Apple's iconic Fifth Avenue Cube

Apple store fifth avenue NYC
Credit: NK/Wikimedia

There are currently 428 Apple retail stores located across the globe. Some are big, some are small. But only a handful are iconic. And from that small grouping, Apple's flagship 5th Avenue store in New York stands out above all the others.

Not only is the Apple Store on Fifth Avenue open, quite literally, 24/7 every single day of the year, it's located beneath a large and eye-catching glass cube that is, believe it or not, one of the more commonly photographed landmarks in all of New York City.

Today, NY Mag has a great write-up detailing how Apple's Fifth Avenue retail store -- which opened up in May of 2006 -- came to be. The real estate for the store was initially purchased by noted NYC real estate developer Harry B. Macklowe in 2003 when he acquired the gargantuan General Motors Building for a then record-setting $1.4 billion. The GM property housed what was then an unused plaza, "a rather useless open space that extended from the front entrance to Fifth Avenue."

Macklowe had a feeling that his best bet for really transforming the property from a prestigious relic into a vibrant commercial property lay with Apple, which was on the verge of blowing up into a retail titan several years into Steve Jobs’s second stint as CEO. He pestered George Blankenship, Apple’s vice-president of real estate, until he was invited to a meeting with Jobs in November 2003.

Out in Cupertino, Macklowe hit it off immediately with Jobs. “He’s wearing this black turtleneck, he’s wearing black jeans ... it was terrific. The Apple team started talking about a flagship store that would be groundbreaking in almost every aspect,” he said. “It would be open 24/7.” 

Regarding the idea for the cube itself, that was reportedly part of Jobs's vision, though in its initial incarnation it was a 40x40 foot cube. Ultimately, though, the designers and architects involved opted for a 32x32 foot cube.

The entire backstory behind the cube's development has never been told and is well worth checking out in its entirety. Note that the NY Mag piece is excerpted from an upcoming book on the GM Building.

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