Over the next few months a striking piece of symbolism will take place around the mighty General Motors building on Fifth Avenue in New York. Apple, the tech group, plans to move out of the basement where it has operated a flagship store-cum-tourist attraction for the past decade, underneath a now-iconic glass cube.
在接下来数月内，极具象征意味的事情将发生在纽约第五大道(Fifth Avenue)上那座宏伟的通用汽车(General Motors)大楼周围。科技巨擘苹果(Apple)计划将过去10年来游客经常造访的那家旗舰店，从如今已成为地标的玻璃方屋下方的地下室中搬出。
The tech group will not be disappearing altogether from this prime site, tucked on the southeast corner of Central Park. Instead, it is renovating the basement to cope with soaring numbers of visitors, and, later this year, it plans to move “temporarily” into a space on the ground floor of the General Motors building next door.
In a neat twist of timing, FAO Schwarz, the equally iconic American toy store, has decided to vacate its flagship location in the GM building on July 15 “to realise meaningful rent savings” in the face of “the continuing rising costs of operating a retail location on Fifth Avenue”. The store has not yet revealed where its new home will be.
So when tourists flock to Central Park this summer, they will no longer see stuffed animals, dolls, Lego and train sets — or the gigantic “floor piano” keyboard that Tom Hanks and Robert Loggia danced on in the 1988 movie Big (a film that helped to immortalise FAO Schwarz). Instead, the site will host piles of gleaming electronic gadgets — and the inevitable throng of visitors who pay pilgrimage around the clock. (Apparently, the store under the cube is not just the busiest in the world but also the only Apple store that operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.)
因此，今年夏天当游客蜂拥至中央公园时，他们将不会再看见毛绒动物玩具、玩偶、乐高积木(Lego)以及火车模型，也不会再看见地板上的巨型“钢琴”琴键——在1988年的电影《飞向未来》(Big)中，汤姆?汉克斯(Tom Hanks)和罗伯特?洛贾(Robert Loggia)就是在这个地面琴键上跳舞（这部电影让FAO Schwarz在人们心中留下了难以磨灭的印象）。取而代之的是，那里将会摆满成堆闪闪发光的电子小玩意——游客也必然会成群结对，不分昼夜地前来“朝圣”。（显然，玻璃方屋下面的苹果旗舰店不仅是世界上生意最忙碌的，还是唯一的每周7天无休、24小时全天候营业的苹果店。）
Now, in one sense this rental dance is nothing new. As the journalist Vicky Ward recounts in her book, The Liar’s Ball (which tells the history of the GM building and which is about to be made into a Hollywood film), this site has already seen endless commercial flux. Business empires have risen and fallen there at startling speed. Indeed, one of the great (and little-known) ironies about that famous glass cube is that the man who first dreamt up the idea, Harry Macklowe, the real estate titan who owned the GM building, actually went bankrupt (before later rebounding).
眼下，从某种意义而言，这种租户更迭没什么新鲜的。正如记者薇姬?沃德(Vicky Ward)在她的书《骗子的皮球》(The Liar’s Ball)中叙述的那样，这个地点已经见证了数不尽的商业变迁。（该书讲述了通用汽车大楼的历史，即将被拍摄成为好莱坞电影。）在这座大楼中，商业帝国以惊人的速度崛起和没落。事实上，关于那座著名玻璃方屋极具讽刺意味（且鲜为人知）的一点是，最初设计出这个想法的人——房地产大亨、通用汽车大楼曾经的所有者——哈里?麦克洛(Harry Macklowe)实际上破产了（后来东山再起）。
To my mind, this switch of retail outlets speaks to far more than just the vagaries of NY real estate. After all, FAO Schwarz is not just any old toy store: in recent decades it epitomised a 20th-century style of kiddie consumer dream, which, of course, is why families have long flocked there to stare at the goodies — and that famous piano.
In recent decades, like so many 20th-century American icons, the glittering fa?ade has concealed a sense of rot. For while tourists have visited the store in droves, they have not been spending money on the scale that FAO Schwarz’s owner — Toys R Us — needs. These days families tend to buy toys at budget downmarket shops (think Walmart) or upscale boutique outfits (such as American Girl). The middle has been squeezed — making it hard to justify Fifth Avenue rents.
最近几十年，就像那么多20世纪美国的标志性物品一样，那座光芒闪耀的店铺流露出一种衰败的味道。这是因为，尽管游客成群结队地走进这家商店，但他们在这里花的钱却一直无法达到FAO Schwarz的所有者——玩具反斗城(Toys R Us)——需要的水平。如今，家长往往要不就在经济型低端商店（比如沃尔玛(Walmart)），要不就在高端精品店（比如美国女孩(American Girl)）里购买玩具。中端商店受到挤压——使得其很难支付得起第五大道的租金。
But at Apple’s glass cube consumers are not just thronging to look but to spend money too. Never mind the fact that the shopping experience itself is often horrid. (When I descended there myself recently, to get a new iPhone, the basement was so jam-packed and sales assistants so scarce that it felt like the retail equivalent of the seventh circle of hell.)
Indeed, sales are so high that Mort Zuckerman, the current owner of the GM building, is quoted in The Liar’s Ball as saying that “whenever I want to cheer myself up I just take a walk around the Apple Store”.
At the beginning of this decade the store was making “$665m a year for 10,000 square feet” of space “in a windowless basement”. Undoubtedly it is dramatically more today; in fact, some well-placed insiders suspect that if anyone could get comparable public data on sales per square foot from retailers around the world (which is all but impossible), Apple’s glass cube would be the most profitable retail outlet in the world.
Perhaps this is just another passing fad, like the FAO Schwarz floor piano. As the history of the GM building proves, business fortunes swing faster than anyone can imagine. In another couple of decades we may find it utterly bizarre to think that anyone ever wanted to go into a windowless basement with hundreds of others to buy an iPhone. Least of all treat it as a tourist attraction.
Right now, I will be watching curiously to see what Angela Ahrendts, the ultra-stylish design queen at Apple, does with that cube. Like it or not, it has now become a powerful symbol of our modern age, a time where kids (and adults) still love to buy “toys” — just not quite the type of toys our parents flocked to in the past.