Apple unveils a spherical offshore retail outpost in Singapore

Oh Sphere

Apple unveils a spherical offshore retail outpost in Singapore

The newest Apple Store—the first to be fully surrounded by water—opens September 10 at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore. (Courtesy Apple)

Weeks after its (sheathed) exterior made a splashy unofficial debut on a myriad of Instagram accounts, the newest Apple Store designed by Foster + Partners has been formally unveiled, with the company providing additional details about and glimpses inside the orb-shaped overwater retail hub in Singapore.

Slated to open to the public September 10 on the grounds—or waters, in this case— of the Safdie Architects-designed Marina Bay Sands luxury resort, the store is Apple’s third retail outpost in Singapore and the first ever to “sit directly on the water.” Apple refers to the buoyant bubble of an iPhone emporium in a news release as its “most ambitious retail project” to date. It replaces a shard-like “crystal pavilion” at the resort that once housed the Avalon mega-club, which closed in 2013.

Up until earlier this week, the entire structure had been wrapped in a tight protective skin stamped with a giant Apple logo and a partial holographic pattern that had concealed its all-glass composition.

inside an-glass apple store
Come to peruse the latest smartphones, stay to take in the panoramic waterfront views. (Courtesy Apple)
an informative session at an apple store
Like many Apple Stores, the new Singapore outpost includes a communal learning area dubbed The Forum. (Courtesy Apple)

Accessible by taking a short amble down a curving bridge extending from a waterfront promenade, or via a submerged passageway that connects to Marina Bay Sands’ main shopping mall, the glass-domed floating (not technically) structure is the third architecturally adventurous Apple Store to open in the Asian market this summer. It follows Apple Central World in Bangkok and Apple Santilun, a dramatic revamp/expansion—or “next iteration” as the tech giant puts it—of the first Apple Store in China in Beijing’s Chaoyang District. Both were also designed by Apple in collaboration with Foster + Partners and opened with advanced coronavirus safety precautions in place, including mandatory temperature checks before entering, face-covering requirements, and social distancing requirements.

From the sounds of it, Apple Marina Bay Sands isn’t the type of place where shoppers will want to spend the entire time with their eyes fixated on a screen. Composed of 114 glass panels connected by ten vertical mullions, the space offers sweeping 360-degree views of the city and its waterfront. An oculus located at the apex of the domed structure allows for abundant natural daylighting while concentric, custom-designed baffles lining the spherical interior prevent things from getting too toasty inside. Potted trees ringing the store provide additional shading while creating “soft shadows through the foliage.”

customers use demo devices at a domed apple store
Taking the form of a spherical conservatory, the all-glass Apple Marina Bay Sands employs passive shading techniques that prevent the interior from getting too hot. (Courtesy Apple)
a floating spherical building in singapore pictured at night
Apple’s two other (non-offshore) Singaporean stores are a flagship on Orchard Road and at the Jewel Changi Airport. (Courtesy Apple)

As far as features and amenities go, the new store has both a Forum (a video wall-centered learning environment for educational and creative sessions) and Boardroom (a VIP lounge/hang-out space of sorts, this one located underwater) accompanying the general sales floor and product support area. Dramatic siting and architectural razzle-dazzle aside, the most remarkable aspect of the new stores is perhaps its multilingual staff with the 148-person opening team collectively speaking over 23 different languages.

Meanwhile, many existing Apple Stores in the United States remain shuttered due to the coronavirus pandemic; some had reopened earlier in the summer but were forced to shutter their doors again because of localized spikes in COVID-19 infections. Some stateside locations are operating on an appointment-only basis. Similarly, Apple Marina Bay Sands will, on its opening day, only welcome guests with appointments before transitioning into regular operations with the aforementioned precautions implemented.