Kyoto’s Apple Store Blends in to the Landscape


The Apple Store in Kyoto was designed to respect the DNA of Japan’s former capital. The shop, located on Shijo Street in the heart of the historic shopping district, was conceived to blend into the surroundings, which was quite a challenge in this city peppered with UNESCO world heritage monuments.

The work of British architecture agency Fosters + Partners, the building borrows its design from Japanese tradition. The ground floor with transparent windows acts like an extension to the street and invites passers-by to come in. But from the first floor, the façade becomes more mysterious. The windows, covered in a fine layer of paper, mask the inside of the shop, but still let the daylight in.

Fosters + Partners state that Kyoto’s Apple Store (which is run 100% on clean energy) pays homage to traditional Japanese paper lanterns. There is also a direct reference to the design of the celebrated Shoji screens, the translucent screens invented around the 13th century and which have become one of the key symbols of Japanese design. Like the façade of the store, they are made from a square frame with rice paper. Their structure enables the inside and outside to be separated.

This quest for a balance between the original architecture of the premises and respecting Apple’s architectural manual (which requires skylights, wood, white and screens everywhere) is not, in fact, restricted to Japan. The new Apple Store in Paris, also designed by Fosters + Partners, was created to showcase the quirks of the building, a Haussmannian structure overlooking the Champs-Elysees.