Renovation project for the Asprey flagship jewellery store on New Bond Street, one of London's fanciest retail streets that attracts thousands of visitors daily.
Asprey has held this location since 1846 and was granted its first Royal Warrant in 1862. Over time, adjacent properties– listed buildings with distinct constructive elements – were occupied, after due renovation and remodelling work. At the beginning of the 20th century, state-of-the-art glass technology was used to increase the doors and windows in the façades, making it possible to include a mezzanine. Iron columns were also incorporated into the façade, while the internal spaces were interlinked by a variety of doorways, resulting in a compartmentalised and fragmented whole.
The client wanted an overhaul that would meet the needs of the brand's new expansion and its image: the pinnacle luxury in British lifestyle. In addition to jewellery, arms and leather goods were to be incorporated into their collection of timepieces, fashion, silverware, objects, etc.
In order to gain planning permission for the new architectural proposal, it was decided to leave out the previous interventions carried out inside the buildings as maintaining them would prevent the radical internal changes required to meet the client's objectives and implement the desired layout. It made no sense to include relatively recent and senseless modifications as part of the buildings' listed condition. Each of the respective landlords of the different buildings also had to grant their approval.
The main challenge faced by the spatial strategy was to increase the built area by just over 1,000 square metres, to a total of 2,324 square metres and to include: the expanded product line, jewellery, silver and leather workshops, a totally new museum, a café, offices and support areas.
In terms of the design concept, the central element consisted of opening up space for an internal atrium with a glass and steel and roof cover to act as the heart of the store, serving as a point of reference for the public and encouraging it to appreciate the Georgian façades. Bridges across the atrium on the upper levels were introduced to connect different floors and the mezzanine was removed to increase the floor-to-ceiling heights and free up the façade. An existing wooden boathouse was kept, but relocated to avoid interfering with the new spatial intent. The façades were renovated and new entrances implemented, along with improved accessibility conditions.
The main structural objective was to ensure stability. Wall had been removed in the past that weakened the buildings, leaving them reliant on neighbouring properties and meaning that any interference could be critical. Where required, the following principles were adopted: new foundations; the insertion of steel support structures to achieve the intended spans; and, smaller modifications and reinforcements whenever necessary. A metallic portico was implemented on the ground floor in order to ensure a stable entrance to the atrium.
A café overlooking the atrium from the top floor was planned, but its retractable, glass roof would have been denied planning permission as it would have been visible from the street, and so it was taken out of the final designs.
The historical significance of the New Bond Street façades made them an essential element of the design project. They were restored and structural support was added. The fixed mezzanine was also eliminated to provide more space, both internally and along the façade. The original glass needed to be substituted by toughened, bullet-proof panes, although the original façade had to be maintained. The solution was to create a steel structure behind the façade that relocated the position of the panes while preserving the exterior. The entrance was completely redesigned to address security, conditioning and historical preservation issues while maintaining consistency with the façade.
The veil background behind the windows was another important and thoroughly explored element. This solution acts as a backdrop for showcasing products both in the store windows as well as internally. Another advantage offered is the increased visual security provided by its screening effect of the interiors from the street. Structurally, a system of sliding, metallic mesh panels was employed that allows access to the window displays from inside the store.
Any project taken on by Foster + Partners entails an exhaustive development process in which options are fully explored and compared against each other. The firm also is also in the habit of discussing them with the client and the team, normally with the intent of determining why something may not be possible or why something may be better, or simply to gather the collective input.