Occupying one building block which borders the busy Vaughan Way to the north-west and the Shires Shopping Center to the south-east, the John Lewis Department Store and Cineplex both is an anchor to the Shopping Center and enlivens Vaughan Way through the complimentary functions of the department store and the cinema, which provide continuous activity.
Commissioned within a larger city centre regeneration scheme, the Department Store and Cineplex challenge the conventional blank envelopes which typify these buildings and explore new ways for them to connect to an urban context. In order to produce a unique experience for both visitors and those passing by, and to make the building unique to Leicester, a number of cultural and historical references have been used to animate the block and enrich the retail and leisure experience.
John Lewis Department Store
Department stores are conventionally designed as blank enclosures to allow retailers the flexibility to rearrange their interior layouts. However, the physical experience of shops is an increasingly important consideration to compliment the convenience of online shopping. The concept for the John Lewis store is a net curtain, providing privacy to the interior without blocking natural light.
The design of the store provides the retail flexibility required without removing the urban experience from shopping. The store cladding is designed as a double glazed façade with a pattern introduced, making it like a net curtain. This allows for a controlled transparency between the store interiors and the city, allowing views of the exterior and natural light to penetrate the retail floors whilst also future-proofing the store towards changes in layout. Thus, the store is able to reconfigure its interiors without compromising on its exterior appearance.
FOA’s pattern design introduces a number of local references from Leicester and John Lewis to a pattern selected from John Lewis’s archive of textile patterns. The use of pattern draws inspiration from Leicester’s 200 years of textiles and weaving, the translucency of saris worn by the Indian population living in Leicester and John Lewis’ own tradition of producing quality fabrics.
The pattern itself is formed of four panels of varying density which allow for a variable degree of transparency. These meet seamlessly across the perimeter, producing a textile-like cladding. Frit in mirror onto two layers of glass curtain wall, the mirrored pattern reflects its surroundings and in doing so becomes further integrated into its context, densifying and changing as the sun moves around the building. Viewed frontally from the retail floors, the double façade aligns to allow views out, whilst an oblique view from street level displaces the two patterns and creates a moiré effect, reducing visibility and increasing visual complexity, thereby maximising the privacy performance.
FOA Director, Farshid Moussavi, says “At a time of online shopping, we thought there should be something special about a physical department store.”
“Unlike a piece of textile which is flat and fixed, the mirror pattern on the building becomes three dimensional and changes throughout the day. It reflects the surrounding context, and in doing so, merges the physical context with the cultural context surrounding the project, becoming a richer and denser three dimensional pattern as the sun moves around the building, maximizing the effect of the skin’s role as an architectural fabric that both reveals the exterior to the interior and conceals the interior from the exterior.”
In order to establish a consistent identity between the cinema and department store, the curtain concept is extended to the cinema. This curtain both associates the cinema and department store and resonates with the theatre curtains which were a traditional interior feature of cinemas. Cineplexes are usually large volumes containing multiple screens which require no daylight in the interiors, except in the lobby areas. To cater for the 12 cinema screens it encloses, the Leicester Cineplex needs to be equally opaque and therefore, its curtain is designed as an opaque stainless steel rain screen. In order to enliven this curtain, the stainless steel façade is treated in mirror finish and pleated at different scales to diffuse the large volume into a series of smaller reflective surfaces. The stainless steel curtain pleats at two scales; the larger scale contains services and the smaller scale is achieved through using stainless steel panels fixed in a shingle pattern. The finer grain achieved through the pleats provides the cinema with texture while the mirror finish adds color and changing patterns to its surface throughout the day.
Project Facts and Credits:
Completion date: 2008
Opening Date: 2008
Total Area: 34,000m2 (365,970sq.ft)
Budget: £44 million ($68 million)
Client: GP Limited : Hammerson plc./ Hermes plc.
Architect: Foreign Office Architects: Farshid Moussavi & Alejandro Zaera-Polo with: Bastian Beilke, Oliver Bridge, Ben Braham, Christoph Dubler, Leo Gallegos, Fabio Giulianini, Stefan Hoerner, Robert Holford, Kensuke Kishikawa, Hikaru Kitai, Homin Kimn, Nicolas Laurent, Friedrich Ludewig, Roger Meadow, Daniel Moyano, Carmen Sagredo, Maria Schattovich, Lukas Sonderegger, Penny Sperbund, Azizah Sulor, Chris Seung-woo Yoo.
Client: Shires GP Limited : Hammerson plc./ Hermes plc.
Structure: Adams Kara Taylor
Main Contractor Sir Robert McAlpine
M & E / Fire Services: WSP Group
QS & Project Management: Cyril Sweett
Architect's Web SIte: www.f-o-a.net