The pivot door pivot
A mall store mainstay is shown the door.
Today we’re going to talk about pivot doors. You’ve seen pivot doors, correct? The dark-framed, rotating glass storefront panels that are a staple of every new indoor store Apple builds? Wait… are they? What’s the most recent store with pivot doors you can think of?
It wasn’t Apple White City nor was it Apple American Dream. No, there wasn’t a single store that opened in 2022 with pivot doors. The last set was installed at Apple Cherry Creek, which opened all the way back in February 2021. Before that? Apple Cherry Hill in September 2020. These stores weren’t just cherry-picked: in the five years prior, 44 more locations featured them. How did a once-defining feature of Apple Stores disappear from new projects almost entirely unnoticed?
As with many of the design decisions that impact stores today, it’s helpful to look back to 2015 and the reveal of the New Store Design. Apple Mall of the Emirates was the first store with pivot doors, and even though Apple never talked about the intent or strategy behind their design at the opening, there are some overarching themes that make their purpose quite clear.
When open, pivot doors dematerialize the storefront and practically eliminate the concept of a structured entrance entirely. Their perspective lines visually lengthen the store and create a dramatic, almost shockingly open space. The New Store Design emphasized “blurring the boundary” between outside and inside, and pivot doors literally swung the boundary away.
All of this sounds great, and it doesn’t explain why Apple has seemingly phased out the doors. New stores still try to blur the boundary, but there are a few challenges that might explain the pivot.
The design has limits
Some malls have large structural columns that inhibit pivot doors. In the unique case of Apple MixC Nanning, two doors simply cannot open. A pivot door requirement could artificially restrict the already shallow pool of available tenant spaces for Apple to build in.
Pivot doors require a ton of space
The more accommodating Backstage areas at new Apple Stores consume more square footage than ever, and pivot doors hog an enormous amount of floor space in relation to their functional value to the store. Each panel can be in excess of 10 feet wide, and this translates to a 10-foot-plus “dead zone” at the entrance when the doors are open.
Unkind to window displays
It’s almost impossible to install window displays or vinyl window decals in an effective manner at stores with pivot doors. These locations don’t even have receptacles in the floor at the entrance to accommodate a powered fixture. That was fine during the era where window advertising essentially disappeared, but it’s not reality anymore.
A boundary too blurred?
At the start of the pandemic, pivot doors seemed like more of a constraint than a luxury. It’s difficult to meter occupancy and manage the flow of foot traffic when the entire facade of the store is one large void divided by a few thin sheets of glass. With no discernible entrance and exit, Apple simply began closing the majority of the doors and directing customers through one gap on either end of the store. This defeats the entire purpose of the design. I still see photos of some stores operating this way — it might actually make for a more straightforward customer experience.
The last pivot doors, at least some of which were fabricated by Albertini, were deemphasized with a silvery-brass frame instead of the distinctive black stroke around each panel. The design is now entirely incompatible with Vintage D.2 stores, which often hang their Apple logo in a central pane of glass.
Data Privacy Day
You may have seen that Apple celebrated Data Privacy Day by launching a permanent new worldwide Today at Apple session called Skills: Taking Charge of Your Privacy on iPhone. There’s also a new Privacy film hosted by Von, an employee at Apple Tower Theatre. You’ll recognize him from some of the other films we recently discussed. The marquee at Von’s store is even celebrating Data Privacy Day.
Here’s a construction update from Apple Ginza, which you might remember is currently located at a temporary store. The old store building has receded significantly as demolition continues. The entire structure will be replaced and redesigned from the ground up.
Apple Tice’s Corner renovation
Updates are coming to Apple Tice’s Corner in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey. The store will be temporarily closed from January 31. I’m a little bit nervous about this renovation because Apple Tice’s Corner is the last location in the world with an original 2001 storefront design, and I wish for it to remain intact perpetually. The scope of the changes is still unclear, but one thing’s for sure: they’re not adding pivot doors.
Paid subscribers will receive a bonus post this Wednesday detailing the history of Apple Lincoln Road. Thank you for your support of Tabletops. 🙂
Photo via @outyooway.