Apple ushered in the modern smartphone age, but Samsung has held its own since. Over the past 10 years, it has sold an incredible 2 billion Galaxy smartphones. And to coincide with the launch of its latest Galaxy S10 phone, along with the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, Samsung has opened a new flagship store in Shibuya, Japan.
Unsurprisingly, the phones steal the show. In a facade designed by Tokyujin Yoshioka, 1,000 Galaxy smartphones glow atop the stark black box of a building. It appears their screens are floating in midair, or floating like holograms over the glass. In fact, it’s all one big visual trick. The phones have been adhered to the underside of horizontal shelving, and they reflect onto the glass at a 90-degree angle below. (Industrial design geeks may appreciate that it appears to be the same trick Midway used to build a legendary pinball machine with a video game that played simultaneously on its glass.)
In this sense, Samsung and Yoshioka are playing to the rich tradition of architectural follies, ornamental buildings popular in the 18th and 19th centuries that were more concerned with visual effects than function. For Samsung, a multistory wall of seemingly impossible, hovering displays makes a strong visual statement: that Samsung is an innovative company in its own right, even if it’s often been pigeonholed for copying Apple. And it’s enchanting to consider what architects–and industrial designers–will be able to do with buildings over the next 50 years as screens only become cheaper and more ubiquitous.