Apple Patents Glass Cylinder Design

  • 10 Oct 2013
  • by
  • Architecture News
Courtesy of Apple

Apple has successfully secured a patent for the cylindrical, glass entrance to its Shanghai store. After trademarking the design and layout of its retail stores last January, this is one more battle Apple has won for copyrighting its signature look.

More on the patented design after the break.

has always played an important role in the design of Apple’s retail stores but its Shanghai location celebrates the material like no other with a giant cylinder and twisting spiral stair that leads visitors down into the retail space. The patent not only covers the but the overall design as well as its method of construction.

The cylinder is composed of curved glass slabs which are designed to meld into a circle when placed side by side. These slabs are connected through a special laminating process that clamps the metal joints to the rest of the pane, ensuring stability as people walk across it. In addition, glass beams strengthen the interior and glass fins hold up the circular roof. Apple’s new patent includes the shape and placement of each of these elements since their composition deviates from architectural convention.

Although the cylindrical form is currently only found in Shanghai, Apple says the design can be adapted to suit future buildings across the globe.

Now this brings us back to a question we posed last year: on what grounds can you patent architecture? Is Apple out of line or in the right trying to gain ownership over its architectural forms and processes? Let us know what you think!

References: Archdaily, Mashable 

Cite: Porada, Barbara. "Apple Patents Glass Cylinder Design" 10 Oct 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed 25 May 2015. <>
  • Andrew

    Let them patent it. Apple’s design theory has become stale. It is shameful that high design is the faceless, white box design championed by Facism. Everyone rants about the hardware design of the iPhone but proceeds to encase it in a plastic case. Totalitarian design is short-lived, we’ll see if these Apple stores make it to landmark status before they are shuttered.

  • Manuel

    To patent architecture is maybe the stupidest thing I’ve heard of today. Theres not even a need to go any further and discuss it.

  • Thomas

    Its an unfortunate precedent. There is a lot of talk about patenting parametric procedures and code in architecture. Its a shame for a patent troll like Apple to get in and establish an absurd patent environment for architecture such as exists in the world of software.


    It’s a terrible precedent. There’s nothing at all innovative about this stair, and any architect who has a basic understanding of designing with structural glass could have put this together. The only thing that’s even remotely out of the ordinary is that there was a client willing to put up the money to build it, and even that isn’t that uncommon in retail fit out budgets.

  • Philip

    Terrible precedent,Mind you if the Greeks retrospectively were able to ‘patent’ classical design then their national debt would be wiped out with royalty payments, White House, Capitol Building,Vatican, St Pauls Buckingham Palace to mention but a very few.

  • Witkowski Boguslaw

    Madness is to patent architecture instead of protect the authorship of architectural concept.

  • Brett

    This company is a disgusting machine for controlling what other people can do just because they’ve done it. It’s gone to a point that is absolutely despicable (Ex. Samsung Vs. Apple). Are they going to tell me I can’t use a beam in their building just because they did? This company will take it that far.

  • zead


  • Moises Vera Soto

    I don’t like the design of this stair…but have a really good thing…we can appreciate better the beautiful legs of the chinese women…that’s awesome! :)

    • Sarah

      stop objectifying women

  • Rick

    Steve Jobs in a (patented) nutshell

  • dache

    make a elevating glass platform inside the cilinder to act as an elevator (another glass cilinder but smaler maby) and the result is going to be an epik elevator worth patenting! apple – a company that made money by selling overpriced IT products to suckers for eyecandy! What they don’t realise is the fact that architecture can not be patented and actions like this only motivate designers to enspire and inovate, making the original an outdated design faster!

  • Penny Walsh

    It’s worth noting that patents are regional rights – in the US, “design patents” (as opposed to utility patents, i.e. patents for inventions) only last 14 years. Even if Apple secured a patent in the US, that doesn’t prevent anyone in other countries from using the design. NB design patents only protect “the look of it” – they don’t protect “Structural systems, materials, details, conceptual strategies”