‘Computer illiterate’ architect behind Apple’s Fifth Avenue glass cube also did Bill Gates’ house

“A taxi pulled up to Apple’s Fifth Avenue store one recent morning, and while the meter was running a pair of tourists dashed out to have their photos taken near the entrance, a glass cube of such incorporeal lightness that it seems in danger of floating away,” Inga Saffron reports for The Philadelphia Inquirer.

“Had those architectural pilgrims arrived a minute later, they might have noticed a 70-ish man in a rumpled blue blazer struggling to balance an overpacked briefcase on a rolling suitcase. He was hatless, coatless, and tieless, and his shirt pocket was weighed down by a fistful of fine Japanese pencils,” Saffron reports. “It was the prizewinning Pennsylvania architect Peter Bohlin, stopping by to kick the tires on his little creation, which he first sketched for Apple chairman Steve Jobs using one of his ever-present Itoya pencils. Told that tourists had photographed it with their iPhones, Bohlin chuckled and said, ‘I hear that happens a lot.'”

“Barely four years after Apple opened the store in the basement of the General Motors tower, Bohlin’s ethereal one-story structure – a glorified vestibule, really – has become a must-see attraction as well as Apple’s highest-grossing location,” Saffron reports. “According to Cornell University scientists who analyzed 35 million Flickr images, the Cube is the fifth-most-photographed building in New York, the 28th worldwide.”

Saffron reports, “Bohlin has designed many impressive buildings since starting out in Wilkes-Barre 45 years ago, from Seattle’s City Hall to Bill Gates’ palatial family compound. But nothing has captured the public imagination like the Cube. His work for Apple – including a Philadelphia store scheduled to open in July in a former Walnut Street bank – probably helped him triumph over two superstars, Thom Mayne and Adrian Smith, to win this year’s gold medal from the American Institute of Architects, a prize he’ll receive in June.”

“He now belongs to that dwindling generation of architects who still think by sketching on paper rather than by turning on a laptop,” Saffron reports. “‘He’s a total computer illiterate,’ said his Philadelphia partner Bernard Cywinski, who then conceded,’I am, too, but at least I managed to learn e-mail.’ Not Bohlin. He’d rather talk than text.”

Full article here.

Way back in July 1999, Architosh reported, “Many people know that the architects who designed Bill Gates’ famous residential compound in Washington were James Cutler Architects and the architectural firm Bohlin Cywinski Jackson (BCJ). This is public knowledge and there are many news and online news sources who can tell you this. What most do not know however is that Bohlin Cywinski Jackson (BCJ) is a longtime Macintosh-based office.”

“As it turns out the Mac was used on the Bill Gates residential complex in Medina, Washington, but not extensively,” Architosh reported. “The project, we are told, was drawn entirely by hand — and anyone who has seen this amazingly beautiful project can understand why. The garage part, however, was apparently modeled in ModelShop by Bohlin Cywinski Jackson staff architects working on the project.”

Full article here.


  1. Allow me to spell out the other “possible news” for you. Please try to follow along:

    1. Apple Glass Cube is 5th most photographed building. Quite an accomplishment agreed?

    2. Bill Gates housing complex was partially designed on a Mac. Ya see pocketRocket — this is a Mac blog. Ya cathin’ on?

    3. Apple Cube is highest grossing Apple location.

    4. When architect Peter Bohlin got out of the cab he was hatless, coatless, and tieless. (Now I’m just fsckin with ya)

    mw: suddenly
    Suddenly pocketRocket gets it.

  2. Revenge of the Cube… So, even if G4 Cube did “fail” (depending on the definition of failure, as it now commands disproportionately high price on eBay, considering its age), Steve was able to get an Apple Cube permanently etched into the world’s mind…

    Let’s not forget, in addition to being Apple’s highest-grossing store, it is by far the biggest moneymaker on Fifth Avenue, grossing twice as much as the next down on the list (“Tiffany’s”) per square foot of retail space. If you look at who’s further down the list, it just boggles the mind that Macs, iPods and iPhones sell better than Cartier, Bergdorf-Goodman, Waterford, Tiffany’s, Emporio Armani, Prada, Ermenegildo Zegna… And these are their flagship stores, along 5th Ave!

  3. If you want building plans, go to a draftsman using CAD. You want an iconic design, go to an architect with a sharp pencil. How much you want to bet that Jonny Ive creates our Apple products on paper?

  4. And you can bet I’ll be lined up in front of that new (and first store in Philadelphia proper) Walnut St. store!

    My Cube in tow. In a wagon. Connected to a power supply. And on.

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