This competition winning project for Reiss was designed to house a concept store over three lower floors, and design studios, cutting rooms and administrative space on the floors above. The aspiration was for a building which would project a strong brand message for Reiss to the passing public, the building being located just off Oxford Street.
The façade was conceived as a dynamic and translucent filter, presenting a semblance of the varied activities behind it while still preserving the capacity to change. Initially the idea was for a cast glass facade, behind which a material layer would provide a delicate screen capable of moving and changing colour. The facade design rejects the common retail concept of 'displaying wares' in place of sheer drama, instead concealing the entire building behind an opaque veil, offering only glimpses of light and movement from inside.
Initially the facade was conceived as fabric behind a cast glass screen, capable of changing with the seasons. However this evolved through the design process to become something much more innovative and exciting. Realising the limitations of glass, the designers sought alternative materials and following trials throughout Europe and the Far East, settled on a highly engineered acrylic, milled vertically to mimic fabric draped across the facade.
The milled acrylic has a very high light conductivity which was important since the initial concept was for a 'glowing' facade visible from nearby Oxford Street. LED light strips attached to the base of each panel funnel light up each vertical striation of the material to wash over the entire facade and give the impression of a light and playful material. The acrylic rainscreen forms part of a triple skin facade that aids cooling/heating during the summer and winter months respectively. The acrylic is supported at the foot of each panel, whilst a continuous rod runs up the edge of the panels to transfer wind loading. Both of these structural elements are connected back to a steel structure hung from the roof slab.
The Finished Building
The façade consists of a double-glazed layer lying behind an acrylic rain-screen. The acrylic layer has a complex machined profile - solid panels of acrylic are cut away by large vertical gauges of varying width and depth, within which are etched even finer vertical striations. The abstract effect is similar to that of a bar code but when viewed obliquely takes on the shimmering quality of a sheet of silk. The effect changes at night when the acrylic is edge-lit giving it the capacity to vary the building's appearance.
Horizontal slabs of up-lit fair-faced concrete balance the vertical emphasis of the façade, and the diagonal form of a staircase running from the second to the fourth floors offsets the orthogonal frame. The design team succeeded in creating a precious material from standard acrylic through highly skilled crafting - creating a design aesthetic to match the creative ideals of the Reiss brand. This process took over three years of intensive research and testing, to create an unprecedented and bespoke facade which will represent the Reiss brand to London and the rest of the world.