I'm walking into the belly of the beast.
Actually, it's just the latest Apple store in New York's World Trade Center Transportation Hub, which opened its doors to shoppers on Tuesday. But the entrance to get to the store appears otherworldly, I look up and follow the dividers as they extend into the white steel ribs of the ceiling, part of the marquee structure known as the "Oculus." For a moment, it seems like I'm being swallowed whole by a whale.
Apple's latest brick-and-mortar location incorporates many of the same aesthetic pillars that Apple design leader Jony Ive brought to the company's other recently constructed stores. The WTC location's opening comes just two and a half weeks after Apple's first store in Brooklyn and 15 years after the original World Trade Center shopping mall was hit by the September 11, 2001, attacks. As companies like Microsoft trend towards a white, minimalist design, Apple has embraced organic elements and warm hues.
The interior's oak wood tables and light brown tones coloring the paneled walls and stools mirror its Brooklyn and San Francisco counterparts. The two-story store exhibits three of Apple's newest design elements: the Forum, a workshop area complete with a 6K video wall, Creative Pros, a group of specialists on Apple Music and photography, and the Avenues, long storefront-esque walls filled with products that change seasonally.
Though the Oculus location did not boast a full-on "grove," San Francisco's replacement of the genius bar -- a tree-lined area teeming with genius helpers -- it had a small living wall filled with live plants.
The store rests on hallowed ground. The seven new World Trade Center buildings replace the ones destroyed by the 9/11 attacks. The structures span sixteen acres in lower Manhattan and the Apple location joins other retailers such as Cole Haan, Italian grocer Eataly and cosmetic retailer Kiehl's in the over half a million square feet of shopping and dining spots run by retail developer Westfield.
The Oculus houses two stories of shops with the Apple store situated in the middle of the retail area, flanked by a train terminal and clothing company John Varvatos.
The transportation hub connects the PATH commuter train system, 11 subways and the Battery Park City ferry terminal. Designer Santiago Caltrava initially predicted the project would cost $2.2 billion and take five years to construct. It has now been over ten years since construction began and has cost more than $4 billion of public money.