RIBA gets a West End outlet as architects dress Regent Street’s windows
Shoppers on London’s Regent Street will get more bang for their buck this month after 13 architects were given free reign to ‘hack’ shop fronts with their creative ideas. The annual RIBA Regent Street Windows event, now in its sixth year, teams up architects, many of them young and upcoming, with leading fashion and retail brands – with a brief to transform shop windows with inventive and eye-catching architectural installations.
The public architecture exhibition runs until the end of September and is expected to be seen by more than a million people each week, giving designers valuable exposure and media coverage. Many of this year’s installations are notable for their close attention to detail and craftsmanship. Conran and Partners' window for US clothing brand Brooks Brothers features a display of ‘dancing’ sculptural ceramic white shirt collars, designed to accurately recreate the fine texture of real cotton shirts.
Gwen Webber, project manager for RIBA Regent Street Windows, said: ‘The architect worked closely with ceramicist Billy Lloyd to develop the forms that fold in different directions as if trying to find their way into button down shape. The piece creates an illusion of materiality and highlights how people respond to the quality of materials.’
Other installations have a more sensual, tangible impact, such as EPR Architects' window for fashion, accessories and homeware brand Anthropologie, which features a mini ‘forest’ of over 250 painted bamboo canes. The centre of the piece has been scooped out in an elipse around the entrance to the shop, so that shoppers feel immersed in the installation when entering.
The other pairings were: Hassell with Karen Millen, LDVC with Longchamp, Shiro Studio with Armani Exchange, Office S&M with Hamleys, AMD Interior Architecture with Levi’s, London Atelier with Crabtree & Evelyn, Coppin Dockray Architects with L’Occitane en Provence, Space Group Architects with Penhaligon’s, Michaelis Boyd Associates with Kiehl’s, and Citizens Design Bureau with Hotel Café Royal.
“The architects had just one night to install their displays. It was really interesting to see shops close in the evening then a hoard of architects, electricians and construction people emerge in high vis jackets, wandering up and down the street,’ said Webber. ‘It was great fun and a lot of the architects ended up doing "all-nighters" as if they were students again.’
Plans for the exhibition began with an open call to all RIBA members for design proposals. These were sent to all participating retailers who each selected the architect they most wanted to work with. A series of design meetings were then set up to flesh out clients’requirements and the brief .
‘Some had a very clear idea about what they wanted, or a specific product they wanted to launch and promote in the display, others we keen to be guided,’ said Webber. ‘The event gave architects a chance to showcase their versatility, as they aren’t often associated with working at this scale or in this type of space.’
Working with the retailers increases the potential for future collaborations and commissions. Last year, Brooks Brothers and perfumier Penhaligon’s went on to roll out their Regent Street installations in different stores across Europe.