Apple's Carnegie Library Store in Washington, DC to Respect Historic Context With Subtle Branding, Community Focus

Following a few reports from last year that centered upon Apple's intent to restore the historic Carnegie Library in Washington D.C. and outfit it as a prime destination for Apple retail, the company has now shared a few renderings and details about the location with The Washington Post.

The location will be home to Apple's new "Today at Apple" events, which will include concerts, art exhibitions, photography classes, coding sessions, and more. Still a retail location, Apple will generate customer interest in purchasing a new product through its Genius Grove, where users can get product assistance on a tree-lined sales floor. The Genius Grove will be located where the Carnegie Library's book collection was previously housed.

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What long ago were reading rooms would become places to browse and sample Apple products.

“This is a way of creating a reason to come to the store, to touch and feel our products, but also to have an engaging experience with someone who is passionate about the same thing,” said B.J. Siegel, Apple Retail’s senior design director.

One of Apple's major intentions for the Carnegie Library location is to make its presence there subtle while restoring the building to its "original grandeur." The Apple logo won't be prominently featured on the sides of the Carnegie Library, and the company hopes that it will "take a little work to find the store’s signage and logo." In the render below, the logo appears as small double signage flanking the main entrance to the building.

Carnegie Library is said to take on the history-focused renovations of previous Apple retail locations, including Apple Opéra in Paris and the upcoming location in Brooklyn. Although Apple plans a few changes to Carnegie Library, like a major new skylight above a central events area, the company's intent to find and preserve historic landmarks beloved by a local community is "part and parcel to the experience Apple is trying to create," according to Apple Retail senior design director B.J. Siegel.

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Rather than plastering the buildings with the company’s logo, Apple’s designers say they will focus on restoring the building’s historic character. It can take a little work to find the store’s signage and logo — which is the point.

“For us, it wasn’t about coming in and leaving our mark,” Siegel said. “It was about bringing the history back out and respecting it.”

“We’ve discovered that big garish logos on historic buildings don’t work very well, so often we try to find more subtle ways to brand the building,” he added.

For its part, the Washington, D.C. government is on Apple's side, with mayor Muriel E. Bowser stating that Apple's location in Carnegie Library "could link D.C.’s rich history to our continued economic renaissance, will demonstrate the strength of our retail market, and will tell companies across the globe that the District is open for business." The Historical Society of Washington D.C. will remain in offices on the second floor of the building.

Later this evening, Apple is set to present its plans to the Advisory Neighborhood Commission in Washington, D.C., but the exact opening date for the Carnegie Library location has not yet been set.

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Top Rated Comments

Jakexb Avatar
92 months ago
At the risk of sounding like a jerk. Why does Apple need to spend all their time worrying about historic buildings or other social issues when people are pissed off about the lack on focus on their products?

If Apple was hitting the ball out the park every day then I would say, go and use your money to give something back, but they aren't making products that I want any more and while I know the people fixing stores aren't the people designing products, this ship has no one holding the rudder.
Historical buildings:
They get approval by city governments to move into these buildings because they have a track record of not ruining them. Getting great locations like this and Grand Central and others adds prestige to the brand and gets Apple amazing retail locations that can't be competed with.

Social issues:
Apple's stance on privacy made an entire new generation of loyal Apple users. People know that Apple won't sell you out. That's something that Samsung et al can't copy and commodify.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Nunyabinez Avatar
92 months ago
At the risk of sounding like a jerk, why does Apple need to spend all their time worrying about historic buildings or other social issues when people are pissed off about the lack of focus on their products?

If Apple was hitting the ball out the park every day then I would say, go and use your money to give something back, but they aren't making products that I want any more and while I know the people fixing stores aren't the people designing products, this ship has no one holding the rudder.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
convergent Avatar
92 months ago
Apple has a pile of money they can do what they want. The people that work on such products aren't the ones that design iPhones or Macs or whatever product you want. It doesn't take any resources out of Apple to do this.

Sometimes life is easier when you come the the realization not everything is about you.
YOU (and I) are Apple customers, and it should be all about "the you" if Apple wants to continue to grow.

This is yet another example of why I'm moving away from Apple as a customer. Steve Jobs was extremely focussed on delivering innovative game changing products to the customer. When companies lose focus on the customer (especially hugely egotistical companies), then they lose customers.

People wouldn't be complaining about a fancy spaceship headquarters, historic buildings for stores, and a CEO bent on making political statements rather than spending their vast pile of cash on innovative product development; if the company was delivering on their core mission. But that isn't happening. Product lines are being neglected and Apple is moving from innovator to follower... or rolling out things like the touch bar that the market doesn't want. I was just in the store yesterday playing with the Galaxy S8 and the mock ups for the next iPhone look an awful lot like Apple is now just lagging Samsung.

I've spent a lot of money with Apple over the years and more and more I'm finding that they just aren't hungry for my money anymore. About all I have left that I'm using which is Apple is an older Mac Mini (with a Dell display since my Thunderbolt Display died and no replacement offered; and planning to transition to my Surface Pro 4 most everything from it), a single Apple TV (just bought a Roku yesterday, and planning another one to replace the Apple TV since they have a couple of apps like Amazon that I want on there), and an iPhone 6s+.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Rogifan Avatar
92 months ago
At the risk of sounding like a jerk, why does Apple need to spend all their time worrying about historic buildings or other social issues when people are pissed off about the lack of focus on their products?

If Apple was hitting the ball out the park every day then I would say, go and use your money to give something back, but they aren't making products that I want any more and while I know the people fixing stores aren't the people designing products, this ship has no one holding the rudder.
They're opening a new store. Are you saying they shouldn't be opening any new stores until the products they're selling are to your satisfaction?
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ApfelKuchen Avatar
92 months ago
At the risk of sounding like a jerk, why does Apple need to spend all their time worrying about historic buildings or other social issues when people are pissed off about the lack of focus on their products?
If you're going to make a presentation to a government body about renovations to a historic structure, you're going to try to impress them with your respect for history, architectural integrity, etc. It's a necessary part of the process.

Considering how passionate Apple is about matters like design, I don't doubt that they do respect the historic buildings they choose for retail locations. However, their ultimate purpose is to build attractive retail stores in upscale shopping districts. Whether those are original, contemporary architectural designs, or renovated historic landmarks is going to come down to location, local politics, etc.

The architects who designed the Carnegie Libraries built them, from the start, to impress the public with their importance - both the cultural importance of the free public library and the knowledge contained therein, and the personal importance and largesse of Andrew Carnegie. Outside and in, they were designed make patrons feel like they were embarking on a special experience.

Retailers of upscale goods also want to make their patrons feel that they and the shopping experience are special, and that the goods they're buying are special. However, if you're seeking approval from government bodies, "I want to make oodles of money" is not going to close the deal.

If Apple was hitting the ball out the park every day then I would say, go and use your money to give something back, but they aren't making products that I want any more and while I know the people fixing stores aren't the people designing products, this ship has no one holding the rudder.
In a company of Apple's size, there are many ships in the fleet, and many hands on many rudders. One can even argue that Apple is a navy, with multiple fleets. No navy will win every engagement. It may even sail past a heavily-defended or strategically-unimportant port in order to win a larger objective. The citizens of those bypassed ports may feel betrayed or abandoned, but the decision to not steer in their direction is hardly proof that there's nobody in charge of the navy.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Mr. Skeleton Avatar
92 months ago
At the risk of sounding like a jerk, why does Apple need to spend all their time worrying about historic buildings or other social issues when people are pissed off about the lack of focus on their products?

If Apple was hitting the ball out the park every day then I would say, go and use your money to give something back, but they aren't making products that I want any more and while I know the people fixing stores aren't the people designing products, this ship has no one holding the rudder.
You must not be a local. Being a DC local and reading this made me say YES!

The area this is in is somewhat dead, mostly just the convention center and some hotels.

This will bring a ton of traffic to the Mt. Vernon area.

The Carnegie Library is a small but beautiful part of DC, and I'm glad Apple is investing to make this library better, along with keeping a low profile.

Traffic, business, improvements to the Carnegie Library, and a footprint that won't detract from the site.

Apple wins, DC wins. I love it.

(also as Chupa said, it's a great isolated location that's very visible)
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)