Paul Smith shopfront by 6a

Words:
Pamela Buxton

It’s a busy time for Paul Smith. Not only does he have a retrospective at the Design Museum coming up this Autumn, but he’s just opened a new London flagship on Albemarle Street in Mayfair.

6a’s shopfront for the new store is a curiosity in itself, full of diverse resonances and detail. This is nothing like the bland expanse of glass typical of so many a fashion emporium, laying bare its interior to all. Instead, the bespoke cast iron shopfront is more tantalising, recalling the traditional arcades of Mayfair while at the same time suggesting both woven cloth and Op-Art psychedelia in its pattern of overlapping circles. And if you look closely, you’re rewarded by small images of a shoe, a bird and a cat within the swirls, hand drawn by Smith and cast into the facade.

Such attention to detail seems entirely appropriate for a client whose designs are renowned for their craftsmanship, as well as being typical of 6a’s rich approach to composition.
 

According to 6a’s Stephanie Macdonald, the shopfront is deliberately a very specific response to the character of Mayfair, inspired by the plentiful cast iron of its streets – the railings, gratings and lamp-posts.  This very traditional material is given a very big twist, with panels cast in an interlocking pattern that appears, when seen obliquely, almost woven, and transforming the character of the faux-Georgian building. Into this muscular relief are inset curved windows which offer a taste of what’s inside, without revealing the entirety. But all is not as it seems – one of the panels is not iron but a hidden door of stained oak carved to match the pattern of the metal.

As the panels rise above the shopfront, they evolve into a solid balustrade set against the grey-painted brick. The cast iron step, hope the architects, will gradually become polished with use.

The interior – designed in-house – is pleasantly eclectic, full of textures and colour. But the real star of the store design is the shopfront, for being generous enough to enhance the character of the street, rather than just its own brand image.


Hello, My Name is Paul Smith is at the Design Museum from 15 November 2013 – 09 March 2014, Shad Thames, London


 

Latest

If passive heat control can work in Burkina Fasso it can surely be applied in Europe. Brian Ford offers seven design principles to help avoid carbon intensive air conditioning

Air conditioning makes us hotter – don’t give it house room

South Africa’s housing crisis puts the UK’s in the shade. Joseph Noero takes a practical approach to his mission to change that

Simple, affordable Table House has huge potential to improve lives

RIBA Royal Gold Medal winner famed for buildings such as the Olivetti offices, Fountains Abbey visitor centre and the Downland Gridshell among others; teacher, collaborator and known above all for his inclusive, optimistic approach

Hugely influential designer, teacher and Royal Gold Medallist

Architect Tom Bennett explains why the urgency of arresting climate crisis leaves him no alternative but to get involved – seriously

One architect on why climate activism is worth a criminal record

Profits flatline in the RIBA Business Benchmarking 2019 survey despite bigger workloads for architects bringing in more revenue

Employment is up, so is international work – the results of RIBA’s Business Benchmarking survey