Selfridges Duke Street
A prestigious project at London’s flagship Selfridges store in Duke Street, providing a new entrance building and a 5000m2 accessories hall, has been shortlisted in the RIBA London Awards 2019.
The project covers the entire east wing of the ground floor and seeks to establish a singular identity for the department store through a cohesive architectural framework. The new entrance unites Selfridges’ two historic buildings and creates a new continuous floor plan for the new accessories hall.
Selfridges is housed in a grand, beaux-arts style building and was completed in 1929. By the end of the 1930s, Selfridges had expanded into a new building to the north, built in a sober art deco style.
Initially these two buildings were connected via bridges over the intersecting street, but in time the street was built over by a set-back concrete infill building and the road turned into a goods ramp to access the basement.
The department store in its more recent form is an ad-hoc agglomeration of buildings of varying styles, levels and functions. In recent years Selfridges has announced several major redevelopment plans to re-establish the architectural quality of its original home across the site, building on this heritage to provide a distinguished contemporary retail experience.
The project, designed by David Chipperfield Architects, was carried out in several phases and involved the construction of the new entrance building at the centre of the Duke Street façade replacing the concrete infill building, as well as the creation of a new accessories hall spanning the entire east wing of the department store. Sir Robert McAlpine acted as the project’s main contractor.
Together, these components create a more coherent identity for the store, improving its urban presence, clarity in circulation and reintroducing the glamour and grandeur of the original building.
Externally, the new building unites the historic buildings on either side with a grand eastern entrance to the department store and tall loggia in the manner of the original entrance on Oxford Street.
Together, these components create a more coherent identity for the store, improving its urban presence, clarity in circulation and reintroducing the glamour and grandeur of the original building. Sitting several meters forward and more closely in line with the existing Duke Street buildings than the previous infill, this new element completes the street façade but encloses a section of the listed classic façade into the new building.
To avoid obscuring this feature, an open porch at street level and a triple-height, glazed café space on the first floor allow the floorplates to coincide and continue the dominant cornices and lintels of the existing buildings.
Rather than a hybrid of neighbouring architectural styles, the new entrance building maintains both structural and visual independence; its dark palette deliberately contrasts the cream-coloured Portland stone of the adjacent buildings. The upper façade is formed of slender bronze-clad structural columns framing the glazing. These columns rest on a deep black precast concrete treated frame with two monumental piers framing the porch.
For the external bronze signage, Selfridges commissioned ferrous and non-ferrous foundry specialists East Coast Casting Co. Ltd. The process to construct the sign was carried out by hand, mimicking processes and techniques that were used as far back as the 1700s.The bronze was fed into a furnace and melted before it was poured it the mould and left for a day to set. The sign weighs 200 kilos but is a solid piece of history that will last for many, many years to come.
Director Chris Ibsill commented:
“It’s a privilege to be involved with a prestige store such as Selfridges, especially given the history involved.”
As well as providing a new entrance, internally the new volume improves the store’s circulation and navigability. By stitching together the retail spaces of the two existing buildings, a continuous ground floor space for the new accessories hall is created.
This new hall is defined by a hierarchy of architectural elements that operate across the site, reasserting the presence of the building as a singular department store rather than a shopping mall.
The primary elements of the space – floors, ceiling and supporting columns – retain their independence from retail display. In the original Oxford Street building, historic plaster columns with classical mouldings were re-instated to their maximum height and the coffers are made visible in their original configuration.
In the northern building, a new style of column and coffer have been introduced; an interpretation and abstraction of the classical features of the original. The flooring, in keeping with Selfridges’ strategy to continue the walkways on the ground floor in white stone, is white-on-white terrazzo.
The secondary elements include free-standing glazed screens and partition walls, which frame individual brand-run concessions within the larger space and delineate clear walkways.
The spherical glass light fittings are a dominant feature throughout the store and relate to the original 1920s lighting. Bespoke counters are designed in contrasting materials such as walnut, felt and blue-tinted glass and are grouped across the hall displaying merchandise.
Located directly outside the new eastern entrance is a monolithic marble drinking water fountain and bench, designed by landscape architecture practice Djao-Rakitine.
All of this was made entirely with Verde Luana marble. This is a particular type of rock characterized by surprising undulating veins in different shades of green, interrupted by a number of white inserts. It was produced in Tuscany at Henraux, an industry leader in the field of marble quarrying and processing.
Henraux scanned the models in 3D and started to refine digitally the details. The 3D digital models were then used to cut stone blocks with a CNC machine. Finally, manual finishing of the sculptures have been carried out by the artisans of Henraux, very experienced people, assisted by the technicians during manufacturing process.
Relying on nearly two centuries of experience Henraux can engage in a wide range of projects, including the most prestigious architectural (or art) works.
David Chipperfield says: “Selfridges has a deep understanding of the architectural heritage and urban presence of the department store, as well as a clear vision for the future of luxury retail. Our task was to unite these elements while stitching together various buildings along Duke Street.
“Externally, we have sought to reinforce the civic function of the store with a grand new entrance. Internally, we have established a sense of coherence between the brand concessions, and reasserted a hierarchy under the strong neo-classical architectural elements of the original building.”