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Apple's new store has a tree-lined 'Genius Grove' and a fitting room for iPhone cases

Susie Ochs | May 20, 2016
The new flagship Apple Store in San Francisco has some updated design elements that could someday show up at a store near you.

The public plaza and Genius Grove

— Matthew Panzarino (@panzer) May 19, 2016

The plaza contains a fountain designed by artist Ruth Asawa, which had been there since 1973. This fountain was a point of contention when Apple first submitted its plans for the site—the original design for the store was criticized as being too stark, just a big metal wall on the Stockton side and no plaza at all. So the final design keeps the plaza and the fountain, and Apple says it will include a public plaza at other “significant” stores. Not at the mall, in other words, but we still applaud the trend of including peaceful spaces in busy retail areas.

ruth asawas san francisco fountain 1
Ruth Asawa’s fountain has sat in an open plaza near Union Square since 1973. Some of the figures you can see here were formed by schoolchildren, using bread dough, and then cast in bronze by the sculptor. Credit: BrokenSphere / Wikimedia Commons (Click to enlarge). 

A deskless help desk?

You can talk to a Genius at the new Apple Store in Union Square, but you won’t be bellied up to the bar. Instead, Apple is rebranding the Genius Bar as the “Genius Grove,” insisting that it’s somehow an improvement to eliminate the desk and let customers “get support working side-by-side with Geniuses under the comfortable canopy of local trees in the heart of the store.”

This might be one of those things you have to experience to figure out if there’s any benefit. When something isn’t working, I just want help fixing it, and it’d be nice if I didn’t have to go into a swamp or a dungeon to get that help. But whether there’s a desk or not doesn’t seem like a big deal. Apple Stores already lack a checkout—instead you flag down an employee with a handheld point-of-sale system—so having a desk for the Genius Bar at least gave the store that little bit of structure.

Don’t expect Apple to plant any local trees in the Apple Store at your local mall anytime soon, but as more stores get this redesign, we expect to see more Genius Bars ditch the bar part. It’s just too bad that Apple doubled-down on the bar’s already twee name with Genius Grove.


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