Selfridges London

David Chipperfield Architects, London, 2018

 

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The ionic columns of the entrance 

Simon Menges     Download Original

  • The ionic columns of the entrance    
  • A     
  • A trabeated structure of black terrazzo marks the entrance portico    
  • Glacial whiteness prevails, with white walls, white plaster or marble columns and a white terrazzo floor    
  • Light fittings are in the form of white acrylic globes    
  • Each concession is demarcated by 3m-high glazed screens, which act like shop windows    
  • Circulation, previously cramped and confusing, is opened up and made more legible    
  • Plans    
  • Sections    
  • Section AA    
  • Facade detail    
  • Upper glazed faced detail    
  • Column design for the original building    

David Chipperfield Architects’ refurbishment of the West End store strips down and rationalises its labyrinthine miscellany.

Since 2012, Selfridges has been reinventing itself to a masterplan orchestrated by Renzo Piano, with different architects recruited to provide sophisticated internal mood music.

This latest phase also involves remodelling the store’s secondary entrance on Duke Street, presenting a rare opportunity to engage with the external fabric. Colonising a structural bay previously occupied by car park ramp, Chipperfield’s new entrance portal forms the concluding chapter in this chronology of refinement, with the building’s florid ionic columns abstracted to a Miesian tableau of slim bronze mullions and glazing – a nod, perhaps, to the original steel frame. A trabeated structure of black terrazzo marks the entrance portico which shelters a huge stone ‘doormat’ embellished with a faintly Art-Deco stepped pattern executed in three different limestones. 

A compulsion to strip down and pare back pervades the project. The residue of decades of previous makeovers has been scraped off to reveal the bones of the original interior, its historic plaster columns reinstated and coffered ceiling revealed. Glacial whiteness prevails, with white walls, white plaster or marble columns and a white terrazzo floor. Within this newly pristine interior, the competing distractions of concessions have been tamed by a rigorous palette of materials and elements which act as a design armature while also giving brands scope to assert their individual identities.

Each concession is demarcated by 3m-high glazed screens, which act like shop windows, and counters made from walnut, felt and blue-tinted glass.

Branding on the screens is uniformly discreet, but retailers can choose a floor finish. Circulation, previously cramped and confusing, is opened up and made more legible, with avenues of columns defining routes through the ground floor.

The project comprised two fundamental components: a new entrance building at the centre of the Duke Street façade, replacing the concrete infill building; and the creation of an accessories hall spanning the store’s entire east wing. Together, they create a more coherent identity for the store, improving clarity in circulation and reintroducing the grandeur of the original building. 

The new development was woven in and around the existing structures while maintaining a live retail environment to the sides, above and below the active construction faces. The structural engineering plays a major role in achieving this. The new structure is designed to be independent of the surrounding buildings and is an asymmetric steel sway frame – effectively a three-sided open box – adopting vierendeel perimeter frames and no walls or bracing. This system provides flexible floor space with 15m clear spans and open linkages into the retail areas in all directions beyond. 

Deep cantilevering steel transfer beams are required at lower levels to bring the perimeter loads of the upper frame into the narrow zone between the basements of the adjacent historic buildings and above the disused (but protected) post office railway tunnels which run directly beneath the site.

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