Stores Are Not Town Squares

by MR Magazine Staff

In the first few minutes of Apple’s annual iPhone launch event today, sandwiched between a dedication of the event space to the late Steve Jobs and a promotional video about the Apple Watch, audience members were treated to a brief interlude about the company’s architecture. In addition to opening its brand-new $5 billion Cupertino headquarters designed by Norman Foster, the company is in the process of overhauling its retail design–including re-naming hundreds of stores “town squares.” “We don’t call them stores anymore, we call them town squares,” said Angela Ahrendts, Apple’s senior vice president of retail, on stage describing these gathering spaces. It’s a grimly realistic description of life in the U.S. today. A few truths: The creep of private entities into public space is decades-old. New York City has long been colonized by privately owned public spaces, which are managed by private companies. More than 500 plazas, parks, streetscapes, and other public areas are now managed by private companies in New York alone. Meanwhile, Americans are spending more of their free time shopping. The annual American Time Use Survey, published by the Department of Labor in 2016, showed that the average American spends 45 minutes per day shopping, compared with about 20 on “civic or religious activities.” Read more at Fast Company.