The untold story of how Apple’s glass cube landed in midtown Manhattan

“Though it has been open for less than a decade, the Apple store under the glass cube at the base GM building is already one of the best-known and most successful retail sites in the world,” Vicky Ward reports for NYMag. “But few people realize that it exists because of a real estate developer who had just taken the biggest gamble of his life, and needed to solve a problem — and because he knew just how to play mind games with Steve Jobs.”

“In 2003, when the still-aspiring property mogul Harry Macklowe finally hit the big-time with his purchase of the iconic GM Building for $1.4 billion in borrowed funds, one of his first concerns was how to fix the ‘problematic plaza,’ as industry insiders and architects called the large and rather useless open space that extended from the front entrance to Fifth Avenue,” Ward reports. “What happened next has long been the subject of speculation and some dispute: Who came up the idea of placing a 30‐foot square glass cube — the world’s ‘smallest skyscraper’ — in the middle of the GM Building plaza? In that lightbulb moment, an unused basement that had caused headaches for its owners for more than 40 years morphed into what is arguably the most famous retail space in the world.”

Apple Store, Fifth Avenue
Apple Store, Fifth Avenue

Ward reports, “The answer, according to four people in the room — Macklowe, Macklowe’s longtime design collaborator Dan Shannon, and the architects Peter Q. Bohlin and Karl Backus from Bohlin Cywinski Jackson — is that the cube was the brainchild of the late Steve Jobs… [but] Macklowe knew that the only major flaw in Jobs’s concept was the size.”

Much more in the full article here.

Related articles:
Apple granted U.S. patent for Steve Jobs-designed Fifth Avenue glass cube – August 28, 2014
Apple unveiling redesigned Fifth Ave glass cube today at 10am Eastern – November 4, 2011
Computer illiterate’ architect behind Apple’s Fifth Avenue glass cube also did Bill Gates’ house – March 22, 2010
Apple starts online countdown to Apple Store Fifth Avenue ‘Glass Cube’ Grand Opening – May 11, 2006
Steve Jobs to eventually take his NYC big glass cube with him – December 2, 2005
Glass cube assembly begins at site of Apple’s 25,000-square-foot 5th Avenue flagship store – October 28, 2005


  1. It was untold. Now it’s told.
    When I read the headline it was untold (to me.)
    Now that I’ve read the story, it’s told (to me.)
    I’m sure there for some the story is still untold, and yet, for others now told.
    Get it?

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