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American Society of Landscape Architects

Mac-Makeover in Chicago

Apple recently spent nearly $4 million to restore North/Clybourn, a run-down subway station near its newest store in downtown Chicago. The Chicago Tribune said the station used to be so crappy riders would get off one stop earlier or later to avoid it. Now, climbing the stairs out of the revamped station, potential buyers of iPods and iPads get out into a new plaza only to see a "giant, glowing box of glass, stone and polished steel": the new Peter Bohlin-designed Apple store.

The new station features "new brick, big new windows, and a sleek new look;" the landscape architecture created by Chicago-based Hoerr Schaudt Landscape Architects includes a new plaza with a "zero-depth" fountain that drowns out the noise of passing cars. One potential customer interviewed by The Chicago Tribune said: "It made me want to sit down on a nice day with a cup of tea and a book. OK, in gratitude to Apple, it should be an iPad, but whatever. I say thank you to Apple."

The inside of the station has been cleaned, repainted and degrimed, perhaps so it will befit the new Apple name and logos that are now branded everywhere. "From the moment you push through the turnstile, Apple ads beam at you, as bright as searchlights. Down in the tunnel, all the other ads are gone."

To raise additional funds, the CTA may start selling naming rights for stations. For North/Clybourn, Apple has first dibs on the name. The Chicago Tribune says this may not be a bad thing given people will call it the "Apple station" anyway, and many of the city's other older stations are likely also in a state of disrepair and could use some private investment. "The CTA may as well profit from the inevitable. Sell Apple the naming rights, for a big chunk of change. People are going to call it the Apple stop anyway."

Also, the end result of the work of collaborating landscape architecture firm Hoerr Schaudt Landscape Architects was deemed positive: "Apple has created a unique space in Chicago: handsome, communal, connected to the city, a space that makes public transportation attractive." The Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin adds that the space "carves out a much-needed refuge for pedestrians in the traffic-choked Clybourn corridor. It also offers sleekly modern tables and movable chairs. Let's hope they are not quickly stolen."

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Nancy's Comment:

This story jumped right out in the context of pre-election stories and post-election headlines about looming budget cuts in state and local governments. I'm not advocating for this Mac-makeover approach as a scalable solution to supporting urban infrastructure, but it sure will attract attention. As such, I'd like to know more about what arrangements, if any, Apple has with CWA for ongoing maintenance at this CTA station.

BTW, with all this now iconic Apple store glass, how do such structures stack up from a green,energy efficiency perspective? Any one know?