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GRAY AWARDS 2020 Editors’ Picks

See the entries that caught our editors’ eyes.


Each week through January 2021, we will be rolling out two of our Editors’ Picks from GRAY Awards 2020.

Editors’ Pick: Apple Cotai Central Bamboo Grove

Foster + Partners

By GRAY Editors

From the moment that guests approach the Apple store, designed by Foster + Partners, in Macau's Cotai district, they encounter thick bamboo groves. The first-of-its-kind glass-stone composite façade comprises five layers of glass integrated with incredibly thin layers of stone, which gives the building its distinctive materiality. Image by Nigel Young.

Built in the bustling heart of Macau’s Cotai district—an area known for its nightlife, gaming, and entertainment options—the Apple store, designed by London’s Foster + Partners and constructed in 2018, balances the company’s uber-minimal aesthetic with fresh foliage as a nod to the surrounding environment. “Carved out of a densely planted bamboo forest, the plaza forms an oasis of tranquility,” the firm writes in its entry, “an urban room that draws people into the site, creating pedestrian connections between the surrounding buildings for the first time.”

Bamboo grows up through the store's central atrium. Image by Nigel Young.

The multi-level structure, “is conceptualized as a ‘paper lantern’ that glows mysteriously,” the architects continue. “Visitors entering the store are treated to a magical experience, surrounded by glowing stone panels that shimmer throughout the day as the sun brings them to life, while at night the cube radiates a warm glow, contrasting against the bright lights of Macau.” Apple is known for its brand’s aesthetic cohesion—the all-white environments with minimal adornment and sleek surfaces, but it also employs globally recognized architecture firms to design its stores around the world.

Looking upwards through the central atrium. It is capped by a large central skylight with punched pyramidical apertures that brings natural light deep into the interior spaces. Image by Nigel Young.

Enhancing the ‘paper lantern’ look are thick groves of bamboo that flank each side of the store’s entrance; the tips of the plants create a textured look against the building’s façade. Inside the store, additional bamboo plants, clocking in at dozens of feet high, are planted in long, white rectangular planters and stretch up through a square atrium to peek out at the level above. This detail stood out to our editors—it humanized the space, bringing life into the slick tech-focused rooms that can, at times, feel clinical. It was unexpected and provided moments of delight, as well as cohesion that ties the space together from all angles. Additional visual integration of bamboo comes with the ground-level glazed façade that looks onto a layered bamboo screen, which provides a heightened sense of enclosure while blurring the boundaries between the inside and outside.

CATEGORY: Interior Design: Commercial

PROJECT: Apple Cotai Central

FIRM: Foster + Partners


LOCATION: Cotai, Macau



Piers Heath

John Lowe


***** Watch GRAY Awards 2020: The Movie! ******

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