You may have already seen it or sadly for you, you perhaps haven’t yet. Launched 30 August this year, Paul Smith’s highly anticipated extension of his flagship Albemarle Street store was definitely no disappointment when we spied it towards the end of the summer. The site on the corner of Albemarle and Stafford Street now expands into the neighbouring building to offer even more of Paul Smith's sartorial-style clothing and accessories, as well as a beautiful selection of furniture. To go with the improved store is a new façade that incorporates Paul's hand drawings in bespoke cast-iron panels, designed in conjunction with 6a Architects.
When given the task to redesign perhaps Paul’s now most important store, the Holborn-based architecture firm wanted to build on one of London’s more familiar and traditional materials – cast iron. So to form an understated background to the city’s streets; the buildings railings, drainpipes, gratings balconies, bollards and lampposts, remain casted in foundries founded hundreds of years ago, employing processes first developed in the bronze age. The result is a beautiful pattern of interlocking circles that have been cast into the solid iron façade and now work as both an open balustrade across dropped windows at the first floor, while also act to reinterpret the ground floor rustication of the Georgian townhouse and the sculpted ornamental language of the 18th-century shop front. Through repetition this typical Regency-shaped building now gains optical complexity, while with the play of sunlight and shadows the pattern develops further into a deep surface texture. The latent makers’ marks of the casting process heightens this and the natural patination of the cast iron even more. A more intimate discovery is to be made in the trio of small drawings by Paul cast directly into panels scattered across the façade. To ensure that the attention wasn't taken from the windows and display themselves, curved windows were envisaged to project from the dark, textured iron as 'luminous vitrines', nodding also to the curved glass of nearby arcades. Spot it if you can, there's even a secret door that of stained oak that lies flush with the cast iron panels.
6a Architects detail, "Paul’s brief was a panoply of references and thoughts, very like his office full of curious things, all consistent in their affectionate description of life. We talked about the lines and stripes he loves, the soft fall of fabric perhaps lending movement to a stripe across the façade, the skeins of coloured thread wound across cards to determine the weave of a future fabric, perforations allowing light at the same time as making reference to material traditions, a collection of South American woven panamas was examined closely, as were military medals and gold ingots with tiny drawings. We talked about the identity and character of this building, this street, Mayfair, what makes place, the sharpness of Paul's tailoring and the element of surprise always to be found in his clothes, often as not a detail that delights in the strangeness of its familiarity. How all this exuberance might find the restraint needed to engage with the neighbourhood at the same time as contributing to its future identity was key."
Inside, the interior is split into three main areas, each with an individual look and feel and an eclectic mix of stunning design pieces, sculptures, paintings and intricate details; a refinement of exactly what Paul Smith is famed for. The women’s area is spacious, inspired by a cross between Mayfair’s rich art history, paying a nod to the works of Ben Nicholson and the studio of sculptor Barbara Hepworth, where elegant sculptural rails showcase the clothing collections and handsome cabinet display accessories. The shoe department has been injected with playfulness and begs you to have fun, decorated with over 26,000 dominos!
The men’s area is modernist and masculine in style. Organic wood and bronze furniture and fixtures have been custom made by Terence Conran's sustainable furniture-making company Benchmark, that sit on an end-grain wood block floor and natural limestone. A black steel circular rail displays tailoring and three full-length windows overlook a small garden, complete with vast bright yellow-coloured panels with skylights at the rear.
The furniture area has an open gallery style with clean, modern walls and limestone flooring. This space will change constantly to display unique and unexpected treasures; some that are originals and some pieces that have been given a new lease of life with a Paul Smith fabric. The building’s characteristic vibrant architectural features, the cobalt stairs and bright green suspended walkway for example, create a break between areas. Window displays are changed frequently and feature clothes, art and furniture.
To coincide with the opening the store, an exhibition of items designed by Dieter Rams will also be on display in the shop until 07 October 2013. Lauded by many as the master of minimalism he is one of the world's most influential product designers. Hosted in conjunction with Dieter Rams collectors 'das programm', the exhibition held at No. 9 Albemarle Street presents a vast collection of his work. During his tenure as Director of the Design Department at Braun, Dieter Rams initiated a ground-breaking aesthetic philosophy, firmly rooted in the principle of "less, but better." Paul Smith - "The work of Dieter Rams is very close to my heart. When I opened my shop on Floral Street, Covent Garden in 1979 I was actually one of the first people in the whole of the country to sell the product he designed for Braun. Customers would travel from all over the place to come to my shop and get their hands on one of his iconic ET66 calculators. He has been an enormous influence on other designers for decades. I love the confidence of the clean lines and the subtle use of colour. He's an absolute genius and I'm delighted to be exhibiting such an extensive collection of his work at No. 9 Albemarle Street." Read more about the exhibition here.
6a Architects and Paul Smith
Façade Specialist: Montresor Partnership
Project Manager: KMB
Structural Engineer: Rodgers Leask
Main Contractor: Rise Contracts
Bespoke Metalwork: Harrington Fabrications
Curved Glass: Cricursa
Discover 6a Architects on the Domus Nova Architect Guide
Paul Smith, 9 Albemarle Street, London W1S; paulsmith.co.uk