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Chicago’s new flagship Apple store struggling with falling ice, cracking windows

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Chicago’s winter doesn’t seem to agree with the Norman Foster-designed structure

Is the issue an anticipated compromise or design oversight?
Photo by Matt Maldre via The Verge

For all of its fancy engineering and architectural accolades earned since opening in October, Michigan Avenue’s glassy new Apple store is struggling with an apparently unexpected adversary: Chicago’s wintery climate.

According to a report by The Verge, frozen chunks of snow and icicles sliding off the riverfront building’s gutter-less, laptop-esque roof pose a serious threat to pedestrians. The dangerous condition forced Apple employees to close-off portions of Pioneer Court with caution tape and deploy signs reading “Watch for falling snow and ice.”

Falling ice wasn’t the only winter-related issue facing the Foster + Partners-designed flag ship store this week. According to pictures posted to the discussion forum at Skyscraperpage, Chicago’s recent cold snap caused at least one of the store’s glass panels to develop a crack.

Considering the structural glass is comprised of thin sheets laminated together like plywood, its replacement likely won’t come cheap. And while this week saw temps dip below zero, it was nowhere close to record lows for the city. It’s possible that even colder weather will cause other pieces to fracture.

The building’s fancy see-through walls also cost Apple some headaches—and a fair dose of negative PR—this fall when it was reported that a higher than expected number of migrating birds were fatally colliding with the store. The company ultimately dimmed its interior lighting to cut down on nighttime strikes during the peak of the migratory season.

Even before glass was installed, the low-slung structure at 401 N. Michigan proved to be a bird-magnet. Gulls congregating on the roof during construction left behind an unsightly layer of guano and prompted Apple to install a series of pyramid-shaped bird deterrence devices.