Oxford Street’s Debenhams has undergone an impressive revamp which saw the 1960s precast concrete building transformed into an on-trend luxurious shopping destination.
Premier Construction caught up with John Gray, Debenhams’ Director of Store Development and Building Services, to find out more about the project.
“The store internally had been neglected for a significant period of time and was looking tired. The last major revamp was in the 1980s when the central atrium was introduced. Also the building was a tad depressing due to the 1960s precast concrete architecture; because of this there was a widespread enthusiasm to improve the store’s interior and exterior.
“The project consisted of new flooring being installed throughout the store, balustrading and architectural treatment to the store’s central atrium, as well as radical changes to the ceilings, lighting and interior design.”
The works were aimed at transforming Oxford Street Debenhams into the chain’s major flagship store. Debenhams as a brand have a major modernisation programme underway to bring all the stores up to standard which has been ongoing for a number of years. However the modernisation projects in other stores will not echo the works undertaken in the Oxford Street store.
Work began in June 2012 and due to the magnitude of the project the process was split over two years. The third and fourth floors were tackled in 2012 and the store’s remaining five floors were undertaken in 2013, with interior works being completed by November.
The fifth floor, which previously housed Head Office administrative staff, was vacated freeing up 20,000 square feet to be transformed into a training area. The relocation of the administrative team and the creation of training space was an integral part of the programme. The external facade of the building was also entirely reclad by the buildings landlord, British Land.
The store’s kinetic facade is arguably one of its most stunning features comprising 125 millimetres squared metal aluminium panels which are sensitive to air movement and thermal currents. Whenever the panels recognise these currents shoppers will notice an impressive rippling effect. There have also been two architectural towers installed on the two corners of Oxford Street which will be strong beacons for shoppers from both Marble Arch and Oxford Circus.
The interior works were undertaken by Simpsons who specialise in restoration and renovation focusing on a range of sectors including education, ecclesiastical, healthcare, leisure, specialist joinery and general construction. Having been in operation since 1922 the company have certainly honed their expertise over a number of projects.
The exterior works were undertaken by the family owned firm Wates who are based in Surrey. In 2011 Wates was named the Contractor of the Year, Employer of the Year and received the Judges Supreme Award at the Construction News Awards which celebrates the best in the construction industry. Wates’ expertise spans various sectors including the public sector, education, technology, affordable housing, residential, commercial, retail, land, fit-out and hotels and leisure.
“It has been a fantastic project to be involved in because the transformation has been huge and the building will now be an iconic building. The whole phasing and programming has been critical to ensure we remained on track throughout, but it has gone extremely well.”
Debenhams trades out of 240 stores across 28 countries and offers an exclusive mix of their own brands, international brands and concessions to shoppers. Debenhams is available online in 70 countries and is the eleventh biggest UK online retailer by traffic volume. In 2012 Debenhams was awarded Multichannel Retailer of the Year at the Oracle Retail Week Awards.
Debenhams has been investing in British design for 20 years through its exclusive designers at Debenhams portfolio of brands. Current designers include Ted Baker, Jeff Banks, Jasper Conran, Erickson Beamon, FrostFrench, Henry Holland, Roksanda Illincic, Betty Jackson, Jonathan Kelsey, Carol Lake, Ben de Lisi, Julien Macdonald, Melissa Odabash, Jane Packer, Jenny Packham, Pearce Fionda, Preen, Janet Reger, John Rocha, Jonathan Saunders, Lisa Stickley, Yukari Sweeney, Ashley Thomas, Eric Van Peterson and Matthew Williamson.
TÜV SÜD Wallace Whittle specialise in the design of sustainable/renewable energy systems including the design of mechanical and electrical systems. The company works across a broad spectrum of sectors, from residential and retail, to commercial, office and health care schemes.
TÜV SÜD has been in operation since 1860, and recently acquired Wallace Whittle Holdings Ltd, which was formed in the 1960s. With a wealth of experience, TÜV SÜD has an enviable array of projects in its portfolio, including Athletes’ Village, Elephant & Castle and Whiteley Village.
Working on the Debenhams Oxford Street project, TÜV SÜD Wallace Whittle was responsible for the electrical infrastructure and specialist lighting design to the building’s external facade.
TÜV SÜD Director, Mark Halloran, said:
“This project is extremely important to us. We want to be associated with the highest profile projects and schemes like Athletes’ Village and Elephant & Castle are typical examples of this. Debenhams is an iconic store on Oxford Street and we are pleased to be associated with it.”
“At TÜV SÜD we pride ourselves on the quality of our work, client satisfaction, and product delivery.”