When I first saw this store going up, I wondered why Apple had to "waste" money destroying the original store structure. I thought they could have built a perfectly decent Apple store within the original structure or could have built a decent store down the block where Tower Records used to be.
But Apple doesn't do just "decent". IMO, the store is spectacular - much more spectacular than the Fifth Avenue "Cube". Certainly architecture and aesthetics are subjective, but IMO, this store fits in perfectly with the neighborhood. It's one short block away from the new WNET PBS TV studios, which will also be behind a giant glass structure as part of the newly renovated section of Lincoln Center. The Apple architecture fits in very well with the Lincoln Center architecture (which also has a new cafe and public seating area behind giant panes of glass.)
The store is gorgeous day or night and the impact of its architecture will definitely pull people in. (I wonder what the architecture critic for the New York Times is going to think about it.) IMO, it has also raised the profile of the block, which in spite of its proximity to Lincoln Center and the movie theatre and large Barnes & Noble across the street, has been a bit dead on the west side of the street.
Those of you who think it's a cathedral are exactly right. I think that's the point: this store will be a cathedral to all things Apple. And for those who think it looks sparse, I don't think you've been to the NYC stores: they're always very crowded. When those stores are filled with people, they'll look even more spectacular. Besides, I don't think Apple wants their stores to look like Costco. And it certainly doesn't look like any mall store I've ever seen: quite the opposite.
Whether or not this store is "green" is unknown to me. Hopefully it is. And hopefully all those hard surfaces aren't going to make the store a noisy place. One of the things I don't like about the Apple retail stores are those concrete floors. And I wish they would bring back the training theatres, like the one they have in the Soho store.
Apple's branding exercise with these stores is that elegance and design matters. They're simply being very consistent with that branding in everything from the retail environments, to their packaging, to the external design of the hardware to their UI. This is one of the ways in which Apple is differentiating their products and giving people a reason to be willing to pay more for Apple as compared to your average generic "order a cheap PC online". It would be easy to be critical of this business strategy if they were failing. But in spite of the things we criticize Apple for on this site, Apple has been firing on all cylinders for a long time. The stores have the highest sales per square foot in retail (any type of retail), they're generating more cash than the entire company generated ten years ago, Apple hits records almost every quarter, they have no debt, tons of cash and they've done all this in the worst recession since the Depression. And I have a feeling, especially with some consumer confidence returning, that they're going to have an incredible holiday quarter (even without Blu-ray).