The Microsoft Store on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. Allen Marden / Thornton Tomasetti.

Microsoft Store, Fifth Avenue



Thornton Tomasetti provided façade engineering services for Microsoft’s first flagship store, located on Fifth Avenue in New York City. Microsoft’s goal for the store was to provide maximum transparency by using a unique approach that would stand out on the renowned street where the store resides. The building maintains a reverence to its roots by preserving the upper two floors, while the lower portion creates a glimpse of the future with its highly glazed storefront that features a 40-foot-wide LED screen and a structural glass vestibule.

The façade is fully glazed using both clear and opaque glass panes, the largest of which is 20 feet wide and 10 feet tall. The oversized panes are structurally siliconed on the two vertical edges back to a slim stainless steel member. This allows for a clean horizontal line with minimal thickness, but it created a design challenge as structural silicone is typically used on all four sides. Exclusive studies and tests were performed during the design assist phase to find the best solution that would fulfill the owner’s design requirements. The chosen design also removed the need for patch fittings, which are often required to prevent the glass from disengaging.

The most unique aspect of the façade is how the vertical and horizontal loads were isolated to maximize the efficiency of the structure. The hanging vertical stainless steel members are used to resist the weight of the glass, while the pretensioned horizontal rods resist the wind on the structure.

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Glazing offers transparency that enhances a façade’s aesthetics and experience from both the interior and exterior. It provides light and a visual connection between the inside and outside. But designing with glass requires the deliberate balancing of light transmittance and the effects it has on energy performance and occupant comfort. Glazing design also requires careful consideration of material strength and safety. We provide a full range of design and engineering support for glazing and glass structures, from structural analyses to recommendations for aesthetics and energy performance. Our expertise in glazed-façade and structural-glass construction includes unitized aluminum frames, stick-built metal frames, steel cable supports, structural glass fin supports and glass stairs and balustrades.